New Zealand and Australia are working to open a so-called ‘travel bubble’ between the two countries by April 2021, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (14 December). Ardern said New Zealand’s cabinet had agreed “in principle” to open a trans-Tasman travel bubble in the first quarter of 2021 provided there are no major virus outbreaks in either country, according to media reports. “It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” she told reporters.
New Zealand closed its borders in March and since then all international arrivals, including Australians, have been required to undergo two weeks of managed isolation. Ardern said she would not allow unnecessary risks to be taken to reopen travel with Australia, which before the pandemic was New Zealand’s largest source of overseas visitors, media reports said. Australia has allowed quarantine-free travel for New Zealand arrivals since October, but New Zealand has not reciprocated, maintaining its 14-day quarantine.
The Australian health minister Greg Hunt enthusiastically greeted the in-principle announcement, saying it was the “first step” in normalising international travel and anticipated the Australian government was “absolutely” likely to grant the necessary approvals, according to reports there. Hunt said Australia was ready to press go, as soon as New Zealand was ready. “We understand it may take a few more weeks, but we are working constructively and patiently,” he said. “New Zealand has been a great partner and I have previously spoken with my counterpart in New Zealand, they have done well through the pandemic.”