New Zealand announces it's launching a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia in 2 weeks

  • New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia Tuesday.
  • The bubble will launch on April 18, and is contingent on cases remaining extremely low.
  • The plan is on a “traveler beware” basis – travelers won’t be aided in the event of a lockdown.
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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that a Trans-Tasman bubble will open up at 11:59 p.m. on April 18.

The bubble will allow for quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia and is believed to be the first bilateral bubble of its kind since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“I don’t know of any other countries in the world who are maintaining an elimination strategy and opening up with another country, so it is a remarkable thing,” Ardern said during Tuesday’s press conference.

Ardern warned, however, the bubble would be “flyer beware,” meaning that travelers would have to weigh the risks of possibly getting stuck in another country if a lockdown were to be reimposed. She also stressed that New Zealand wouldn’t be offering aid or assistance to those stuck during a lockdown.

The bubble would be suspended, she said, if a case is detected that either country believes are not easily contained, and flights would stop entirely if multiple cases are reported. Ardern also noted that a lockdown in one Australian state wouldn’t impact the ability of people from other states to travel between the countries.

“This sends a very strong message to the states to sort themselves out, and to the governments to speed up the vaccine rollout so we can open further,” Australia’s Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive, Margy Osmond told the Guardian.

Travelers don’t have to be vaccinated in order to fly, but they will still be expected to wear masks while flying and follow any coronavirus restrictions in place on the ground.

To date, Australia has administered around 843,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to ABC, while New Zealand has administered nearly 69,000 doses.

Around 40% of all travel to New Zealand came from Australia in 2019, and Australian tourists contributed around $2.7 billion to the economy.

Experts are praising both countries’ implementation of zero COVID strategies, popular across much of Southeast Asia, which emphasizes testing, tracing, and isolating citizens in order to properly track COVID transmission within a country.

Both Australia and New Zealand have seen comparatively few COVID cases when held up against countries with lax tracing and testing policies. In Australia, there have been 29,354 cases and 909 deaths, while in New Zealand, there have been slightly more than 2,100 cases and 26 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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