Quarantine-free travel to Australia to open on April 19

Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble on Traffic Lights System

Venkat Raman
Auckland, April 6, 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announcing the opening of the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble (RNZ Screenshot)

 

New Zealanders will be able to travel to Australia without the need for isolation from Monday, April 19, 2021, with the travel bubble opening a minute earlier at 11.59 pm.

Travel between the two countries has been made possible based on the measures taken to control the spread of Covid-19, although some States in Australia are still under the grip of the Coronavirus.

Readers must be aware that while those holding New Zealand passports will be able to travel to Australia without the need for a visa, other residents would require to comply with the consular requirements of the Australian government.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision of the Cabinet to open the travel route between New Zealand and Australia.

Low risk and safe travel

She told a media conference at 4 pm that Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield considers the  considers the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine-free travel is safe to commence.

“Our team’s success in managing Covid-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel.  One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia, so today’s announcement will be a great relief for many,” she said.

Flyer Beware Policy

Ms Ardern said that the bubble will boost New Zealand’s economic recovery but warned that people must exercise caution and follow safety measures.

“This bubble represents a world-leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out. We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place. Quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-Covid-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware.’ People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak,” she said.

Ms Ardern said that just as New Zealand has alert level settings for managing cases, the government will now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: Continue, Pause, Suspend (like Traffic Lights).

Further layers added

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that the government has added further layers to manage risks at the border to ensure that New Zealand remains on top of the Virus.

“To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, people must not have had a positive Covid-19 test result in the previous 14-day period and must not be awaiting the results of a test taken during that period. When those in Australia decide to come to New Zealand, they will be making a booking on a green zone flight. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high risk routes for a set period of time,” he said.

Mr Hipkins said that passengers must provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand and complete a pre-departure health declaration.

They will not be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms.

Mandatory requirements

“When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on their flight and will also be asked to download and use the NZ Covid-19 Tracer App while in New Zealand.

“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we call the green zones at the airport,  meaning there will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine. We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution. Final infection control audits for airports in particular are occurring over the next two weeks and are a requirement for each airport to operate. The Ministry of Health expects to have completed these and to have reported on them on April 16, 2021,” he said.

MIQ Rooms in New Zealand

According to Mr Hipkins, the bubble is expected to free 1000 to 1300 rooms per fortnight within Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities.

“Of these, we will retain roughly 500 spaces as contingency should they be needed for the Trans-Tasman arrangement. We also have a small number of facilities that we consider having only been suitable for travellers in quarantine from low risk countries. With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities but in the meantime we are considering whether they could be used for other low risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands,” he said.

“As a result of this, we do not anticipate a large number of vacant quarantine spaces to come on stream. There will, however, still be thousands of spaces in MIQ for Kiwis. That is how we have helped 130,000 safely return home through our managed isolation facilities,” he said.

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