Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appeared on live Australian television this morning, speaking to Channel Nine’s Today show about travel arrangements between the two countries and their respective COVID-19 vaccine rollouts.
The Prime Minister confirmed Quarantine Free Travel would continue with NSW, despite the state battling a growing COVID-19 cluster of cases and confirmation this morning that an infected Sydney man had travelled to the Australian capital of Canberra while infectious.
“The indications we look for are the response of the Australian-based health authorities. We stay in really close contact. If they have enough concern to impose restrictions or go into a form of lockdown then we then respond at our border,” the Prime Minister said.
“At the moment we’re keeping travelling moving with NSW.”
She said the pace of vaccine rollouts in Australia and New Zealand meant both nations were looking to finish in a similar time frame.
“There’s not many countries that are in the position of New Zealand and Australia in terms of being free of COVID. And so I think on both sides of the Tasman we accept that we do need globally to prioritise those places where there is large scale loss of life. I think that’s as it should be.”
When asked when New Zealand would open up to further countries, Ms Ardern said it would depend on the safety of international entry arrangements of other nations.
“Those [countries] who may be reopening, you won’t find somewhere that doesn’t have some form of border requirements. So, most countries are still using restrictions. But even then, look at the UK, high rates of vaccination and we’re still seeing at the moment a particularly concerning level of cases.”
“Most countries are rolling out their vaccinations programmes so that they can be more like New Zealand and Australia and the fact that we have been living relatively free – of course we have had sporadic periods of lockdown – but we are out and about with one another without the requirement of social distancing and constant mask use and that’s what other countries are striving for and we’ve had it, so we’re very grateful for that.”
Ms Ardern said the next most likely neighbour New Zealand would open its quarantine-free border to would be Nuie.
“My expectation is that the next most likely will be Nuie – beautiful place – and we will look out to our pacific neighbours but New Zealand and Australia has set a pretty high bar for those that we want quarantine-free travel that doesn’t require quarantine and a vaccine. We want to be able to maintain our free, safe position. So, there won’t be too many places that can fulfil that criteria but we will look.”
The Today show is currently broadcasting from Queenstown – with Ms Ardern appearing on the show via satellite from Hamilton’s popular Fieldays agricultural expo event.