The trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ has arrived, but concerned premiers whose states are outside of the bubble’s arrangement have been left red-faced after receiving dozens of Kiwi travellers from internal flights.
The first flights from New Zealand landed in Sydney on Friday. Tearful reunions were recorded at Sydney Airport, while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian welcomed the “pleasing” step towards a trans-Tasman bubble.
Such an emotional day! 😭Today, we welcome the first flights from New Zealand under the new quarantine-free travel…
“We appreciate that when those travellers go back to New Zealand, they may have quarantine to do there, but it is a positive move,” Premier Berejiklian told the press, via 9News.
“And I want to thank those experts for giving us those strict requirements to bring people over from New Zealand.
“This is great news for tourism, it’s also great news for family reunification and great for businesses.”
Under the original arrangements of the travel bubble, Kiwis have been granted access to fly to NSW and the Northern Territory.
Kiwis arrive in Victoria and Western Australia
However, on Friday night it emerged that at least 55 trans-Tasman arrivals had taken connecting flights to Melbourne, which remains outside of the travel bubble.
According to ABC News, Victorian authorities have spoken to all 55 people who were expected to arrive in the state to explain local coronavirus rules.
Authorities in West Australia have also confirmed 23 Kiwis, including a child, are in hotel or home quarantine after flying into Perth overnight, the national broadcaster reported.
Unlike Victoria, WA has a hard border. Premier Mark McGowan told reporters the federal government needed to provide more support.
“We would like further assistance from the Commonwealth, in particular, about making sure that those people who come on aircraft into WA that we get proper manifests and proper advice as to those people that are coming so we can deal with these situations,” Premier McGowan said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also criticised how the travel arrangements unfolded. He added that his government had repeatedly requested to be excluded from the travel bubble.
“We were asked, ‘Do you want to be in the bubble?’ and we said no,” Premier Andrews told reporters on Sunday, via ABC News, while announcing the relaxation of some of the state’s lockdown measures.
Moreover, Andrews said the federal government had originally advised him there were 17 travellers from New Zealand who had entered Victoria. It later emerged there were up to 55 possible arrivals.
Authorities have been reportedly racing to get in touch with these arrivals and to make sure they are aware of lockdown restrictions.
“So, this is gold standard, apparently, according to the federal government,” Andrews said.
“I’ve got no power to stop them coming in.
“No-one is alleging that the virus is hiding in New Zealand, it’s not. What was concerning is that a bunch of people turned up and we didn’t know about it.”
According to ABC News, Andrews wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday, calling for new arrivals from New Zealand to be prevented from catching internal flights from NSW to Victoria.
“I urgently request your action to prohibit onward travel of passengers under the Safe Travel Zone arrangements into Victoria,” the letter said, as reported by ABC News.
A statement from the federal government, obtained by the national broadcaster, argued the onus was on the incoming passenger to make themselves aware of the requirements when they travel internally.
“On arrival into Australia from New Zealand, passengers are advised to check the entry requirements for other states, which includes needing to undertake hotel quarantine if they travel to WA,” the statement read.
“It is exactly the same arrangement for if a traveller from any Australian state went to WA, they would be required to undertake hotel quarantine.”
According to ABC News, the government’s statement noted there had been meetings with state health authorities that predicted how the arrangements would work.
“The travel bubble is working exactly as it was outlined at multiple meetings of the expert medical panel over the past fortnight where the CHO [Chief Health Officer] from WA was in attendance,” the statement read.
“As per the 18 September National Cabinet decision, airlines must provide passenger records to state authorities if requested for contact tracing.”
Featured image source: Facebook/Sydney Airport