Dust off your passport and get your suitcase ready, because Australian residents may be able to fly to New Zealand – without having to enter mandatory hotel quarantine – from next week.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to give the trans-Tasman bubble the green light after more than a year of closed international borders between both countries.
Quarantine-free travel is expected to start on either April 12 or 19, Federal Government and industry sources told The Australian.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry tourism chief John Hart told the publication the “19th was pretty much definite”, adding that is the date most airlines have been given.
Air New Zealand appears to also be eyeing off April 19 as the correct date, with the airline significantly increasing flights from that date onwards.
It has 23 return services between Auckland and Sydney that week, compared to just four return flights this week.
However, Ms Ardern told reporters in New Zealand this morning that airlines had provided a view on if they were ready for the bubble, but said she had not told airlines the final announcement and bubble launch date.
“We are ready to put out a commencement date,” Ms Ardern said on Tuesday, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.
RELATED: Trans-Tasman bubble to be announced today
Airlines and airports stressed yesterday that they were ready to go.
People can already travel from New Zealand to Australia without having to undergo mandatory quarantine, but the trans-Tasman bubble will allow people from both countries to be exempt from quarantine restrictions.
Last month, Ms Ardern outlined a number of concerns she said needed to be resolved before the bubble opens, including the response to potential outbreaks, how contact tracing between the two countries will work and being provided with an up-to-date risk assessment from New Zealand’s director-general of health.
RELATED: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce gives update on NZ, Australia bubble
New Zealand’s Cabinet is meeting today to confirm a start date for the two-way travel bubble, with Ms Ardern expected to make the announcement around 2pm Sydney time.
It is understood Ms Ardern will also outline scenarios where the bubble might burst, such as an outbreak in an Australian city, though it will depend on the particular circumstances including the number of cases and contacts, or whether the source is linked or is unknown.
According to the New Zealand Herald, a contained outbreak in one Australian state will likely see quarantine-free flights to other states remain open, except if people can freely travel in and out of the state where the cases are.
In effect, Ms Ardern said travellers should be aware they could be stranded with very little notice should an outbreak occur.
“To make this work, there will be an element of ‘flyer, beware’,” she warned.
“We want to keep it moving, but we also want to keep both sides safe, so there may be occasions when we take a precautionary approach and, for short periods of time, travel ceases.”
It is understood the bubble, once launched, will remain open for parts of a state where an outbreak has happened, as long as it was contained in a specific place or city.
New Zealand residents visiting part of Australia suffering an outbreak will be told to follow the local public health advice; if that area goes into lockdown, that would also apply to any Kiwis there.
Likewise, any Australians in New Zealand would have to follow the lockdown rules there, if they were in a region that was put under restrictions.
The Government could also direct Kiwis returning from Australia into quarantine or self-isolation at home if, for example, they had been a close contact of a case there, however people won’t need to be vaccinated for bubble travel.
– with the New Zealand Herald