The New Zealand Cabinet could decide as soon as Monday to open a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia from mid-April.
New Zealand could decide as soon as Monday to open a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia from mid-April.
It is understood a paper is currently being discussed in a NZ Cabinet committee around the final form of the bubble, and that a meeting of the full Cabinet could make decisions early in the next week.
The decision is expected to be signalled in the coming week, for a mid-April start.
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A bubble would open up quarantine-free travel within New Zealand and Australia, while each country would retain the right to halt such travel as it sees fit.
Airports would be divided into "green zones" and "red zones".
Green zones would be free and open travel, while red zones would be for travellers coming from elsewhere in the world to transit or quarantine.
Even a decision as soon as Monday would give a tight turnaround.
NZ COVID-19 Recovery Minister Chris Hipkins told Parliament yesterday that Auckland airport would require 10 days to be ready for the bubble, while the airlines have indicated that they would require three weeks to get geared up and ready to fly.
Other NZ airports that are understood to be participating in the bubble arrangement are Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
The NZ Government is also buoyed by the fact that all border workers should be fully vaccinated by the end of the month and that as the vaccine rolls out further, it will become even tougher for coronavirus to escape from airports and quarantine facilities.
New Zealanders should also expect that any travel to Australia will come with a warning: that you may have to hunker down in the unlucky instance that a cluster breaks out, and you are caught in the middle of it.
Most likely, however, it is envisaged that unless a Kiwi or an Australian is caught in the centre of a cluster, there would be a three-day shutdown while the situation was assessed, and then travel could potentially resume for most people.
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Earlier this week, Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Dan Tehan flagged a three-way travel bubble with Singapore and New Zealand by the middle of the year, with Fiji also keen to join.
Negotiations between Australia and New Zealand appear to have moved quickly since February.
As Stuff reported last month, officials had concluded 11 rounds of talks with Australia over a joint decision-making framework that would govern the bubble.
Under this arrangement there was going to be an agreed set of circumstances that would govern so-called 'green zone' travel rules between the two countries.
Because the bubble will now be a unilateral arrangement, Australia will have to remove its ban on Australians travelling to New Zealand, in order to make it reciprocal.
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Currently, the only Australian states allowing quarantine-free travel from New Zealand are Victoria and NSW.
But it should be expected that once the Australian Federal Government – which governs the national border and aviation laws – opens the border up that most states will fall into line. Queensland in particular is heavily reliant on the tourist dollar.
- reported with Stuff
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/trans-tasman-travel-bubble-expected-by-april-nz-minister-says/e61039e0-6cb3-4763-b170-b9992101cd52