Destinations

New Zealand sticking to two-way travel ‘bubble’ timeline despite Australia’s recent COVID-19 concerns

New Zealand will stay true to its plan to establish a two-way trans-Tasman travel “bubble” by April, despite continued community transmission of COVID-19 in multiple Australian states.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins told The Guardian that the country was still looking to establish the “bubble” in the first quarter of this year and that decisions on a commencement date would be made “early this year”.

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”.

Last month, the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that while a date has not yet been announced for the travel “bubble”, she believes it will 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.

Previously, Ardern has said that New Zealand would only allow quarantine-free travel from places with at least 28 days of no community transmission.

However, since she made the comments, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have all had outbreaks.

Ardern has previously said outbreaks like the one in South Australia further reinforced New Zealand’s hesitancy to allow Australians into the country without undergoing a two-week quarantine.

“What’s happening in South Australia only further reinforces the importance of having a good understanding of how Australia intends to manage their internal borders when there are outbreaks,” Ardern said, according to The Guardian.

“If they have an outbreak but they are instituting strong border controls, then it’s manageable. But if they have a tolerance level for community transmission that’s higher than ours, then it is problematic.

“What this underscores is why it’s so important that New Zealand has not rushed into this.”

In December, Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt, described Ardern’s announcement as “second half of the equation”, and said the federal government would “absolutely” approve the agreement.

“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 according to ABC News.

“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.”


Featured image source: iStock/aumphotography

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