New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Australia’s decision to halt quarantine-free travel for Kiwis across the Tasman could throw out the timeline for a two-way travel ‘bubble’.
The Australian government suspended its one-way Safe Travel Zone arrangement with New Zealand for 72 hours from 2pm on 25 January, prompted by a community case of COVID-19 detected across the ditch – the first for NZ in more than two months.
Until then, New Zealanders travelling into the country will have to quarantine for 14 days, and those who entered Australia on or after 15 January will need to take a test and isolate.
The community case was discovered to be a highly infectious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa, according to ABC News.
Ardern expressed “disappointment” in the Australian government’s decision.
“Ultimately it is a decision for Australia, and I need to acknowledge that, but I certainly shared my view that this was a situation that was well under control, that we have had experiences in New Zealand with these situations in the past, and that, actually, if we’re going to run a trans-Tasman arrangement, we need to be able to manage situations like this.”
“If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble, we will need to be able to give people confidence that we won’t see closures at the borders that happen with very short notice over incidents that we believe can be well managed domestically,” Ardern said at a post-cabinet press conference yesterday.
“We’re seeing the impacts of that decision on travellers.
“We need to have some confidence if we’re in a trans-Tasman travel arrangement that we won’t see decisions that impact people when it may not be necessary.”
New Zealand’s PM said Australia’s decision would likely delay plans for a two-way travel bubble by the end of March.
“We are continuing to pursue it [two-way quarantine-free travel], but what we will need to establish is a way that we can have that arrangement, but without seeing such disruption over events that may
happen from time to time,” she said.
“Look, it does look increasingly difficult at a country-by-country level – we haven’t ruled out the possibility of state by state – but, again, I know many people will have been frustrated by the impact that has been had on their travel.”
Earlier this month, New Zealand’s COVID-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said the country would stay true to its plan to establish a two-way “travel bubble” by April, despite continued community transmission of COVID-19 in multiple Australian states.
Hipkins said the decision would be made based on “a range of health and border requirements … in order for a trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone to commence”.
New Zealand allowed Cook Islanders to resume quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from 21 January.
Featured image source: ABC News