Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Australia welcomes travel bubble

Australia’s Health Minister has welcomed New Zealand’s announcement of a travel bubble, describing it as the “second half of the equation” today.

New Zealand’s Cabinet agreed in principle to establish a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia early next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

Ms Ardern said it would be conditional on coronavirus case levels staying low and pending approval by the Federal Government.

Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt said the Federal Government would “absolutely” approve the agreement, and that increased travel between the two countries would benefit both economies.

“We consciously opened up Australia to people coming from NZ because their case numbers were negligible and we knew there would come a time when our case numbers would give them confidence,” he said.

“Now this gives the chance for New Zealanders [and] Australians to visit New Zealand … without having to quarantine.

“It’s the first step on a return to international normality.”

New Zealand’s decision to allow a travel bubble with Australia follows Queensland’s decision last week to open its border to the country.

All other states had already opened to New Zealand travellers, although Western Australia requires 14 days’ quarantine on arrival.

Since October, New Zealanders have been able to travel to Australia without going into quarantine in certain states.

In a press conference on Monday, Ms Ardern did not give a specific timeframe for the bubble to come into effect, but said she anticipated it would be in the first quarter of 2021.

“It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of trans-Tasman quarantine free travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” she said.

“But I think for now, New Zealanders by and large appreciate the approach of the Government to ensure that we are not taking on an unnecessary risk as we’re going into the summer.

“We’ve never been wanting to put specific dates prematurely before we’ve made final decisions because people make plans, people book flights, and people may potentially have quarantine bookings that they could cancel.

“We don’t want anyone to do that prematurely until we have certainty around when it will open.”

Ms Ardern said the bubble would be contingent on case numbers in Australia, saying that 28 days without community transmission would be one of the requirements of the bubble staying open.

She said the New Zealand Government had to make sure there were contingencies in place in case there were Australian outbreaks.

“And it’s not a hypothetical. There have been several,” she said.

“We would need to make arrangements to have potentially thousands of New Zealanders brought back to New Zealand in numbers that we wouldn’t be able to facilitate, necessarily, managed isolation.”

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he would be going to Auckland Airport tomorrow to see how “operational separation” of international travellers would be conducted.

“No-one wants to see our travellers coming from a safe zone country mixing with our travellers from somewhere else, so we’ll be making sure that’s all lined up,” he said.

“The airlines themselves need a bit of time to prepare to make sure they have sufficient planes and crew to fly the routes we’re talking about, both with the trans-Tasman and the Cook Islands.”

This article first appeared on ABC.

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