After more than a year of closed international boundaries with Australia, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave the green light to quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia on Tuesday afternoon from Wellington.
Ardern came up with the term "Trans-Tasman bubble" to refer to the new travel arrangement.
The Trans-Tasmin travel bubble is also expected to fuel New Zealand's economic recovery and represents a world-leading scheme for safely expanding international travel while maintaining a virus-eradication policy.
This would be the first time since the pandemic necessitated travel bans and border closures that passengers can fly between Australia and New Zealand without the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Both countries closed their doors to visitors early in the pandemic, which aided in the virus' containment.
How the Trans-Tasman travel bubble will work
To be eligible for a quarantine-free flight, the traveller must have not had a positive COVID-19 test result in the past 14 days and cannot be waiting for a test result. Travellers will also need to show caution, as Australia and New Zealand maintain the right to halt quarantine-free travel in the event of an outbreak.
'Green zone' flights will be used to transport Australians to New Zealand. There will be no passengers on those flights who arrived in the last 14 days from somewhere other than Australia. Passengers will also be required to wear a mask during their flight, and Australians will be required to download and use the New Zealand COVID Tracer software when in the country.
The New Zealand airports will have 'green zones' too, where passengers will be dropped. This ensures there will be no contact with people from other countries, and there will be no need for supervised isolation or quarantine. Passengers can, however, take further precautions by buying Coronavirus related travel insurance. When the travel bubble opens in a few weeks, this will give people even more confidence and peace of mind.
Since October of last year, Australian states have allowed New Zealanders to fly in without quarantine. New South Wales and Victoria also allow Kiwis to fly without quarantine, but New Zealand has maintained mandatory isolation since the early stages of the pandemic.
However, thanks to the new Trans-Tasmin travel bubble arrangements, visitors from either country will be able to visit the other without having to undergo an isolation period or a COVID-19 inspection if certain conditions are met.
Trans-Tasman travel bubble boosts airlines capacities
Airlines on both sides of the Tasman are already showing interest in expanding operations capacity on Australia-New Zealand flights following the announcement.
For example, starting on April 19, Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar plan to provide up to 122 weekly return flights between the two countries. This reflects an expansion from the pre-COVID potential of 3% to 83 per cent after the travel bubble begins.
Also, Air New Zealand has announced that flights between Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Queenstown and eight Australian cities will be increased.
It also plans to start twice-weekly flights between Auckland and Hobart, although no start date has been set.
Here are a few more things you need to know
With few, if any, cases in recent months, both Australia and New Zealand have been remarkably effective in managing the pandemic's transmission, and this has influenced the decision to proceed with the Trans-Tasman travel bubble.
• Passengers must provide full contact details while in New Zealand and complete a pre-departure health report.
• Green zone flights will be flown by a crew who have not operated on any high-risk flights for a specified amount of time.
• Passengers with cold or flu symptoms would not be permitted to fly.
• Passengers are required to wear a mask on their flight.
• Arriving guests' temperatures are checked at random.
The two-way quarantine-free travel corridor between the two countries will open at 11:59 p.m. on April 18, with major airlines such as Air New Zealand and Qantas accepting reservations beginning April 19.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's Prime Minister, described the bubble as a "world-first" and a "critical step" in the country's post-COVID recovery.
In the same vein, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “This is the first of many more steps to come, I believe, as we get back to a normal, not only over the course of this year but beyond."
“I very much appreciate the arrangement the New Zealand government has come to today; we welcome them back as indeed Kiwis will be welcoming Aussies."
“That means more planes in the air, more jobs on the ground and in the air as well for our airlines.”
Attempts to create quarantine-free travel between the two countries have been thwarted in the past by minor outbreaks on both sides. Also, the Australian Federal Government has changed its mind on different occasions. Barring no last-minute change, April 19 will see the first quarantine-free travel arrangements between two countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.