After almost a year disconnected from the world, New Zealand is opening its borders, with a travel bubble through Tasmania.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the bubble with Australia would begin on April 19, allowing free travel between the two nations. Travelers from New Zealand have been able to enter select Australian states without quarantining themselves since October, but not in the other direction.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ardern said he had “confidence not only in the state of Australia, but in our own ability to manage a travel plan.”
More than 600,000 New Zealanders live in Australia and many families are on the border. “One sacrifice that has been particularly difficult for many to bear over the past year has been the separation of friends and family living in Australia, so today’s announcement will be a great relief to many,” Ardern said. “This is the next chapter.”
Ardern said the agreement, from two countries, both maintaining a total elimination strategy to open up Covid-19 to international travel, was potentially unique in the world. The plan has been in the works for months, but was repeatedly halted after the Covid-19 outbreaks on both sides of the border.
New Zealand officials have warned that those who choose to make the trip should be cautious and prepared, because another outbreak in either country could mean the border would be closed. Ardern previously said that: “We may have scenarios where travel will shut down in one direction. Therefore, it can leave travelers, for a period of time, stranded on both sides of the Tasman. “
“Trips without quarantine will not be what they were before Covid-19,” Ardern said. Travelers would not be able to travel if they had cold or flu symptoms or were waiting for the Covid-19 test result, he said. They would have to wear a mask on flights and provide contact details for their time in New Zealand.
He also said that there would be random temperature controls at the airport and presented a series of scenarios in which the bubble could be affected by new cases of Covid, and said that “none of us want to export Covid to the other country.”
If a case arises involving a border worker, for example, the journey is likely to continue. But if cases turned up that were not immediately traced to the border, the journey could be stopped. At this stage, no pre-departure test would be required for travel, but Ardern said that could change in the future.
The move is being celebrated by New Zealand tourism companies, many of which have struggled to survive for the past year without international tourism. In March, Tourism New Zealand forecast that opening travel to Australians could allow tourism revenue to rebound to 70 percent of pre-Covid levels. With the travel bubble open, they expected a NZ $ 1 billion boost to the New Zealand economy for the remainder of the calendar year.
The government has come under increasing pressure as New Zealand businesses struggle to survive the loss of income from foreign tourists since the country’s border was closed a year ago. A little over half of 923 operators who responded to a Tourism New Zealand survey this year he said that without a rebound in business they would have to close.
Earlier Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the government would not apologize for delays in announcing the bubble: “We will never apologize for putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first … we are really confident that we can do this now, “he said.” Nothing is risk-free and that is why we need to implement these processes. “
Ardern also noted that the change would free up around 1,000-1,300 rooms per fortnight in New Zealand’s managed isolation facilities. However, he said, some facilities could only be used by those from low-risk countries like Australia, so they could be dismantled, and around 500 rooms would be kept “as a contingency,” so he did not anticipate a large amount. number of quarantine spaces to connect.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism