Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble Planned for Q1 Next Year

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the two-way quarantine-free arrangement should be in place by the end of March.

Milford Sound, New Zealand on a rare sunny day. (Photo: Sébastien Goldberg/Unsplash)

New Zealanders itching to travel to Australia without having to spend two weeks in quarantine on their return—and Australians hoping to cross “the Ditch” for an overseas holiday—will be buoyed by the news that the much-awaited trans-Tasman bubble is finally happening early next year.

Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in her final post-Cabinet press conference before the holidays; she said the latest plan needed approval from the Australian Cabinet, and the Q1 launch of the bubble hinged on keeping Covid-19 case numbers low on both sides of the Tasman Sea. An exact date has not yet been determined as there are still a number of issues to iron out. “We would need to know how we’re dealing with the internal borders with Australia and also we would have to have the airlines ready. We are quite keen to see segregated airline staff for quarantine-free travel,” Ardern told reporters this morning.

The news comes just days after New Zealand said it would launch a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, which has not recorded a single case of Covid-19, also in the first quarter of 2021. The remote South Pacific island country is closely linked to New Zealand and its residents are dependent on the latter for access to healthcare and education.

Kiwis can already visit most of Australia under a one-way travel bubble arrangement. Queensland became the latest state to ease restrictions on travelers from New Zealand over the weekend; as of today, only Western Australia is still imposing mandatory quarantines on incoming Kiwis. According to a report in SBS, the trans-Tasman bubble will free up the months-long backlog of New Zealand’s Mandatory Isolation and Quarantine program, which is at capacity until late February. As many as 40 percent of bookings for the limited spots have been made by New Zealanders trying to return home from Australia.

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