New Zealand to open travel corridor with Australia this month

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New Zealand has agreed to open a non-quarantine travel corridor with Australia to significantly boost its struggling tourism industry.

The so-called travel bubble will open on April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Wellington on Tuesday. It will restore unrestricted round-trip travel between the two neighbors for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close their international borders more than a year ago.

“The bubble will give a boost to our economic recovery and represents a leading arrangement to safely open international travel while pursuing a strategy of elimination and containment of the virus,” Ardern said. “We have worked hard to ensure safe travel and the necessary public health measures in place.”

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While the resumption of trans-Tasman travel will benefit the economies of both countries, New Zealand is a popular holiday destination for its much larger neighbor and has the most to gain. Before the pandemic, Australian visitors accounted for a quarter of the income generated by foreign tourists. Ardern nevertheless resisted pressure to open a bubble earlier, citing the risks of allowing COVID-19 to return to the community.

New Zealand and Australia are among the top performers in the global battle against the virus – New Zealand has consistently topped Bloomberg’s COVID-19 resilience rankings and Australia is currently third. But both have also suffered from sporadic outbreaks requiring regional lockdowns.

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Brisbane, Australia’s third most populous city, entered a three-day lockdown last week after the UK strain of the virus was found in the community.

One of the challenges in establishing an international corridor between the two countries has been figuring out how to respond to epidemics localized to either end.

Ardern today warned travelers should have contingency plans in place if an outbreak in Australia forces a break or suspension of the travel bubble and prevents them from returning on time. Visitors would have to comply with any local restrictions imposed, including lockdowns, and may be required to enter quarantine upon their return, she said.

“Travel without quarantine will not be what it was before COVID-19, and those who undertake travel will do so under the direction of ‘flyer, beware’,” Ardern said. “People will have to plan for the possibility of travel being interrupted in the event of an epidemic.”

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New Zealanders could already travel to Australia without having to self-quarantine upon arrival, but the need to enter an isolation facility run for two weeks upon their return home made it unappealing.

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