New Zealand has agreed to open a quarantine-free travel corridor with Australia in a major boost for its ailing tourism industry.
The so-called travel bubble will open on April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday in Wellington. It will restore unrestricted, two-way travel between the two neighbors for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close their international borders more than a year ago.
“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said. “We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.”
While the resumption of trans-Tasman travel will benefit the economies of both countries, New Zealand is a popular holiday destination for its much larger neighbor and stands to gain the most. Before the pandemic, Australian visitors accounted for a quarter of the revenue generated by foreign tourists. Ardern has nevertheless resisted pressure to open a bubble sooner, citing the risks of allowing COVID-19 back into the community.
New Zealand and Australia are among the top performers in the global battle against the virus — New Zealand has consistently topped Bloomberg’s COVID-19 resilience ranking and Australia currently lies third. But both have also suffered sporadic outbreaks requiring regional lockdowns.
Brisbane, Australia’s third most-populous city, entered a three-day lockdown last week after the U.K. strain of the virus was discovered in the community.
One of the difficulties in establishing an international corridor between the two nations has been working out how to react when there are localized outbreaks at either end.
Ardern warned today that travelers should have contingency plans in place should an outbreak in Australia force a pause or suspension of the travel bubble and prevent them from returning on schedule. Visitors would need to abide by any local restrictions that are imposed, including lockdowns, and may need to enter quarantine on their return, she said.
“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,’” Ardern said. “People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.”
New Zealanders were already able to travel to Australia without having to quarantine on arrival, but the necessity to enter a managed isolation facility for two weeks on their return home made it unattractive.
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