Trans-Tasman Travel Could Resume by Christmas

New Zealand’s prime minister has said that timing is “possible” with a state-by-state approach.

An aerial view of Sydney Harbour. (Photo: Jamie Davies/Unsplash)

Though estimates for the much-anticipated Trans-Tasman Bubble place it in 2021, quarantine-free travel between parts of Australia and New Zealand may actually be rolled out in time for the year-end holidays. This morning, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern told the hosts of TVNZ1’s Breakfast show that the timing would depend on the direction taken by Australia’s federal government.

“We did suggest it would be up to them, but if they did move state by state, that might free things up a little sooner,” she said. When TVNZ1 journalists asked if state bubbles could be open before Christmas, Ardern replied that it was “possible” under a new approach being studied by Canberra, which would restrict travel from areas defined as Covid-19 hot spots—not dissimilar from the system already used by Queensland’s state government.

Ardern continued, “What we’d need to be assured of is when Australia is saying they have a hot spot, that the border around that hot spot means that people aren’t able to travel into the states where we are engaging with, with trans-Tasman travel.

“We’ve got a strategy of having a Covid-free country, that’s our ongoing goal and way of operating, and other states have actually operated like that too, like Queensland,” she added.

Over the weekend, Australian tourism minister Simon Birmingham said a Trans-Tasman bubble could first allow Kiwis to enter the country without undergoing quarantine, while it was up to New Zealand to decide when its borders would reopen to Australian travelers. Birmingham also suggested that the initial phase might be limited to residents of New Zealand’s South Island, given the recent cluster of community cases in Auckland.

Previous plans to open up the whole of Australia were put on hold as a second wave of Covid-19 swept Melbourne beginning in June. According to a report by news.com.au, the first part of the country to reopen to New Zealanders is likely to be New South Wales. Australia’s most populous state recorded no new coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking the first time that figure has dropped to zero in more than three months.

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