Homeland Security

New Zealand and Australia Announce COVID-19 Travel 'Bubble'

By Phil Mercer April 06, 2021

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said a quarantine-free travel "bubble" with trans-Tasman neighbor Australia will start on April 18. It will allow unrestricted movement between two countries that have managed to contain the virus through strict lockdowns and international border closures.

New Zealanders have been allowed into most parts of Australia since October, but travel the other way was banned. New Zealanders who did make the journey across the Tasman Sea also faced a mandatory two-week stay in hotel quarantine on their return.

Those arrangements will soon change. New Zealand authorities say that just before midnight local time on April 18 a so-called travel "bubble" allowing unrestricted movement will start between the two countries.

Authorities believe the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low.

At a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the travel plan was the only one of its type anywhere.

"I can confirm that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will commence in just under two weeks' time," she said. "This is an important step forward in our COVID response and represents an arrangement I do not believe we have seen in any other part of the world. That is safely opening up international travel to another country while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and a commitment to keeping the virus out."

However, travel between Australia and New Zealand could be disrupted should future outbreaks of COVID-19 infections be detected. Officials have said that flights would be suspended from any Australian state or territory if authorities there ordered a local lockdown.

To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, passengers must not have returned a positive coronavirus test result in the previous 14-days. They must also not be waiting for the results of a test taken during that period.

New Zealand has recorded 26 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, while about 2,500 infections have been detected, health authorities say. Australia has recorded just over 29,000 coronavirus cases, and 909 fatalities. Both countries have closed their international borders to most foreign nationals. They have allowed citizens and permanent residents to return home, but they face 14-days in mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense when they arrive.

Australia and New Zealand have both embarked on mass coronavirus vaccination programs.

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