Sydney, Australia, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- Australia on Friday announced plans for a one-way “travel bubble” that will allow visitors from New Zealand from Oct. 16.
During the first stage of the plan, only New Zealand residents and citizens will be able to travel to the Australian states of New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
“This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, not just that state and that territory,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said in Canberra, referring to the Tasman Sea that separates New Zealand and Australia.
“This will allow New Zealanders and other residents in New Zealand who have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine-free,” he added.
Travelers from Australia will not be able to enter New Zealand, and Canberra is optimistic about opening other regions of the country in the future.
“I know if (New Zealand Prime Minister) Jacinda Ardern wants to have Australians going into New Zealand, that will be up to her,” McCormack said.
Earlier in the day, Ardern indicated that she wasn’t ready to open up the borders and that her country would maintain a two-week quarantine period for those returning from across the Tasman.
“In our view we are not ready to have quarantine-free travel with Australia. They have a very different strategy to us, and so they’re making that decision … but for now we of course have to keep our New Zealanders safe,” she said, and encouraged residents to spend their money domestically.
Both countries have kept their international borders closed since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, allowing only their respective residents and citizens to enter.
The two governments began to explore the opening of an air corridor between the countries months ago as a measure to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 on tourism and the service sector.
However, the outbreak in the Australian state of Victoria – which accounts for 90 percent of the confirmed cases in Australia and due to which lockdown measures on the 5 million inhabitants of Melbourne remain in force – as well as the last outbreak in Auckland, now close to a recovery, put a stop to the plan.
New Zealand has recorded about 1,500 cases of COVID-19, including 25 deaths, while Australia has surpassed 27,100 cases, and 890 deaths, of which 802 occurred in Victoria. EFE-EPA