Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden stated on Monday that New Zealand hopes to establish a tourism bubble with Australia by April next year and is working to finalize the necessary anti-coronavirus border measures.
Ardern said New Zealand’s cabinet had agreed “in principle” to open a trans-Tasman travel bubble in the first quarter of 2021 provided there are no major virus outbreaks in either country.
“It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” she told reporters.
New Zealand closed its borders in March and since then all international arrivals, including Australians, have been required to undergo two weeks of managed isolation.
The country’s strict handling of the coronavirus has been widely praised, which caused only 25 deaths out of 5 million people.
Arden said she would not allow unnecessary risks to reopen for travel with Australia, which was New Zealand’s largest source of overseas tourists before the pandemic.
She said a key consideration is how to prevent border facilities from being flooded if a large-scale virus outbreak occurs in Australia, prompting thousands of visiting New Zealanders to rush home.
“It’s not a hypothetical — there have been several (Australian outbreaks),” she said.
“We’d need to make arrangements to have potentially thousands of New Zealanders brought back to New Zealand in numbers we would not necessarily be able to handle in managed isolation.”
Since October, Australia has allowed New Zealand entrants to travel without quarantine, but New Zealand has not responded and maintained quarantine for 14 days.
Last weekend, New Zealand announced a similar plan to travel with Cook Island in the Pacific in the first quarter of next year.