Australia and New Zealand to allow quarantine-free travel

‘Travel bubble’ between neighbouring countries to open later this month

After nearly a year shut off from the world, New Zealand is cracking open its borders, with a trans-Tasman travel bubble allowing two-way quarantine-free travel with Australia.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday the bubble would open from April 19th, allowing quarantine-free travel between the two nations. Travellers from New Zealand have been able to enter selected Australian states without quarantining since October but the arrangements did not apply in the other direction.

Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, applauded Ms Ardern's announcement while airlines in both countries hurriedly advertised hundreds of weekly flights and routes. However, tourism operators warned the benefits would be muted in the short term, as the first passengers would likely be low-spending travellers visiting family.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ms Ardern said she was “confident not only in the state of Australia, but in our own ability to manage a travel arrangement”.


More than 600,000 New Zealanders live in Australia, and many families straddle the border. “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,” Ms Ardern said. “This is the next chapter.”

Ms Ardern said the arrangement – of two countries, both maintaining a full elimination strategy for Covid-19, opening up to international travel – was potentially unique in the world. The plan has been in the works for months now, but was paused repeatedly after outbreaks of Covid-19 on either side of the border.

Temperature checks

New Zealand officials have warned that those choosing to make the trip should be cautious and prepared, because another outbreak in either country could mean the border would close.

“Quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-Covid-19,” Ms Ardern said. Travellers would not be able to travel if they had cold or flu symptoms or were awaiting a Covid-19 test result. They would have to wear a mask on flights, and provide contact details for their time in New Zealand.

She also said there would be random temperature checks at the airport and laid out a series of scenarios in which the bubble might be affected by new Covid cases, saying that “neither one of us wishes to export Covid to the other country”.

The move is being celebrated by New Zealand tourism businesses, many of which have struggled to survive over the past year without international tourism.

Mr Morrison said on Tuesday it was "tremendous" the arrangement would be operational in time for Anzac Day on April 25th – a day of armed forces remembrance shared by the two countries. "This will mean importantly jobs for Australia … it means more planes in the air, it means more jobs on the ground and in the air as well for our airlines," he said.

Australia's Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said she hoped the bubble would encourage Australian states – which have shut internal borders to varying degrees throughout the pandemic – to adopt a uniform approach to managing border restrictions.

New routes

Shortly after Ms Ardern’s announcement, Qantas announced it would operate 122 return flights a week to New Zealand, including new routes, and that it expected the two-way bubble and Australians’ pent-up desire to travel internationally would see a return to 83 per cent of pre-Covid operating capacity.

Air New Zealand also announced it would fly to nine Australian cities, including a new route to Hobart. However, some airlines are still reeling from the effects of international and domestic border closures, with Virgin Australia – which went through voluntary administration early on in the pandemic – saying it would only begin flying to New Zealand from November.

New Zealand’s government has come under increasing pressure as businesses across the country struggle to survive the loss of income from overseas tourists since the country’s border closed a year ago. Just over half of the 923 operators who responded to a Tourism New Zealand survey this year said without an upturn in business they would have to shut down.

Earlier on Tuesday the deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson, said the government would not apologise for delays announcing the bubble: "We will never apologise for putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first … we're really confident we can do this now," he said. "Nothing is without risk and that's why we need to have these processes in place."– Guardian