If you’re wondering when Australia could expand its border to other countries outside New Zealand, the prediction is grim.
The update comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed NZ’s announcement it will open its borders to Australians, quarantine free. It is the first time Australians will be allowed to travel overseas for tourism purposes in over a year.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the two-way quarantine-free travel corridor will start at 11.59pm April 18, with major airlines – including Air New Zealand and Qantas – able to take bookings from April 19.
Ms Ardern’s announcement comes almost six months after Australia opened up to New Zealand. Should temporary restrictions need to be applied due to a COVID-19 outbreak, both countries will provide as much notice as possible to government agencies, passengers, airlines and airport operators affected by any such measures.
But when pressed over which countries might be next to join a travel bubble, Mr Morrison said Australia was “not in a position to move forward”.
Even Ms Ardern warned Aussies: “Flyer beware”.
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In February, Qantas and Jetstar announced they were planning to resume international flights to “most destinations” from October 31, 2021.
Most of Qantas’ international routes would resume on that date, including flights to London, Singapore and Los Angeles, the company said.
In January, Australia’s then-top health chief Brendan Murphy dashed hopes that the rollout of the vaccine will allow people to travel overseas this year, predicting borders will remain closed until 2022.
But there was talk Australia could open up to countries including Singapore or Hong Kong sooner rather than later.
In March, reports surfaced the Australian and Singapore governments were in talks to negotiate a travel bubble which could have been in affect by July at the earliest.
But Mr Morrison said on Tuesday the government had considered Singapore and Japan for a separate bubble — among other countries — and ruled out any such prospects.
“I can’t confirm what they are at this point, we are not in no position to be outlining where the next ones will be,” the Prime Minister said.
“These things are regularly assessed by the Chief Medical Officer and we have looked at places like Singapore and Japan and South Korea and countries like this, but at this stage we are not in a position to move forward on any of those at this point.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the PM bragged about the government’s decisions to “close Australia’s international border early last year, declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic before the World Health Organisation did… to suppress the virus has ensured we are the envy of the world today”.
He said he wouldn’t speculate on the likelihood of opening international borders as it wouldn’t be “fair”, despite Australia’s vaccine rollout.
“We are seeing populations around the world increasingly being vaccinated, but the important piece of information is that while we know, absolutely, that the vaccines that we’re using and that other countries are using are very effective in ensuring against serious disease, and protecting, obviously they can’t in all cases.
But there is hope. Despite the fact there in no timeline on when we might look towards that next big trip, Mr Morrison said the bubble “is the first of many more steps to come”.
“This is an important first step,” he said.
“But as more of the world, and particularly more of our own country, is vaccinated, then obviously we can start moving to managing this virus a lot more like other viruses that we deal with in a more standard way.
“That’s our objective, but we’ll let the evidence lead us on that.
“And at this point, the evidence is not strong enough to give us a good pointer about when we will arrive at that point.
“Australia and New Zealand have led the way when it comes to managing COVID. We have ensured that both our countries have been, despite dealing with the virus, have not suffered the same types of virus impacts that we have seen in so many other countries around the world.”
Qantas and Jetstar will restart flying to all of its New Zealand destinations when the bubble opens on April 18.
The two airlines will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman.
Air New Zealand said it would ramp up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports when the bubble begins.
Chief executive officer Greg Foran said the airline had been preparing for a trans-Tasman bubble for months, bringing stood-down crew back on board and ensuring airports and lounges were ready.