New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that from April 18, Australians will be able to fly quarantine free to New Zealand.
Although Australia has been open to New Zealand travellers in some capacity since October, New Zealand had been reluctant to commence the travel bubble, as more frequent clusters of COVID-19 continued to rise and fall across Australia.
The travel bubble idea was first highlighted in April last year. However, only today, 12 months later, has the New Zealand cabinet received advice that the conditions for safe travel with Australia had been met.
Ms Ardern warns that travellers must plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted should there be an outbreak, with neither country needing to provide warning, and further advising that government support will not be provided for those left stranded if an outbreak occurs.
“Those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware,” the Prime Minister said.
Ardern has said she will be conducting interviews over the next week with Australian outlets and “acting as tourism promotion agent number one” – despite having no plans to travel to Australia anytime soon.
In response, Air New Zealand has increased its scheduling, from a mere four flights this past week, to five flights in a single day from Sydney.
Virgin Australia, on the other hand, has concluded that it will not resume flights to New Zealand until November, despite acknowledging that this is a step in the right direction. Instead, Virgin Australia said it has “taken a more pragmatic approach to ramping up its operations both here in Australia and as part of the Federal Government’s support for international readiness.”
Ardern concluded by noting what this change marks on the road of COVID response and recovery.
“This is an exciting day that represents a new chapter for Australia and New Zealand. I know family, friends and significant parts of our economy will welcome it, as I certainly do.”
By next Wednesday, New Zealand’s director general of health will give final confirmation of any conditions of travel that may affect Queensland.