New Zealand opens a quarantine-free “travel bubble” with Australia from 11:59 p.m. on April 18, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday.
Why it matters: New Zealand Tourism Industry Officer Chris Roberts and Michael Barnett, an NZ Chamber of Commerce Director, told Axios that the plan could serve as a model for other countries.
- Roberts, CEO of the tourism industry Aotearoa, said it would provide a plan for international travel and trade, noting that the aviation industry had been preparing for this with the two governments over the past year.
What they say: “The bubble will boost our economic recovery and represent a world-leading event with the safe opening of international travel, while continuing to pursue an elimination strategy and keep the virus out, ”Ardern said during a briefing in New Zealand̵
- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference in the Australian capital Canberra that the trans-Tasman travel corridor “means more planes in the air, more jobs on the ground and in the air for our airlines as well.”
- “This is the first of many more steps to come, I think, when we return to a normal one, not only during this year, but beyond,” he said.
How it works: Ardern said her government implemented frameworks preparing for an outbreak, similar to the four-stage alarm system that has largely kept coronavirus out of New Zealand. It involves three possible scenarios: “Continue, pause, stop” journey, she said.
- NZ Health Minister Chris Hipkins said Australians intending to travel to New Zealand would book a “green zone flight”, meaning there would be “no passengers on the flight that has gone anywhere” other than Australia for the last 14 days. “
For the record: Australia and NZ closed their borders in March 2020, when COVID-19 spread around the world. Barnett, who is also the Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO, said it called for courage to do this and put in place systems to protect citizens.
- “People have come first and it has not been about the economy, it has been about the people and the economy is a consequence of all this,” he said.
Note: Australia announced a “safe travel zone” in October last year that allowed New Zealanders to visit parts of the country without quarantine. It was later extended to the rest of Australia. But the kiwis had to check into managed quarantine hotels when they returned.
- The travel bubble means Australians and New Zealanders do not have to stay in these hotels in either country.
Status of the game: New Zealand last confirmed a COVID infection in the community on 28 February. No new cases have been detected in Australia this week.
- New South Wales and Queensland both reported on locally acquired cases last week, linked to a bachelorette party at a bar in NSW, near the Australian border.
Between the lines: Shaun Hendy, head of Te Pūnaha Matatini, a research center advising the NZ government, said opening the travel corridor would be low-risk as Australia follows a similar elimination strategy and has excellent monitoring systems.
- “Should an outbreak occur in one of the Australian states, we would learn about it quickly and our government would have time to take steps to manage travel from any affected region,” Hendy said.
What to see: Tourism New Zealand’s interim CEO René de Monchy said in an email to Axios that she does not expect Australian visitor numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time.
- But it is estimated that the travel bubble “could bring $ 1 billion to the economy by the end of the year.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.