Sydney, Australia, Apr 19 (EFE).- The long-awaited travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand began Monday.
The first flight from Sydney landed shortly after noon in Auckland, the most populous city in New Zealand, where families waited for their loved ones with flowers and “welcome home” placards.
Similar emotional scenes also took place at Australian airports after the arrival of the people stuck in New Zealand for more than a year.
The governments, however, stressed that they were in no hurry to reopen their international borders, as quarantine-free travel is only for the people of the two countries.
They said travelers from other parts of the world would have to undergo two-week quarantine in hotels or centers set up by the governments.
The beginning of the air bubble came after months of negotiations between the two neighbors.
Australia had allowed quarantine-free travel from New Zealand residents since late last year in March.
But New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach and had enforced isolation for arrivals from Australia after concerns about virus outbreaks in the neighboring country.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hailed the launch of the bubble as a landmark moment in New Zealand’s Covid-19 recovery.
She said it would mean a lot for people in personal life as well as for businesses.
“The bubble marks a significant step in New Zealand’s reconnection with the world,” Ardern said.
“According to Tourism New Zealand forecasting, welcoming Australians back could mean a billion dollar boost.”
The resumption of flights to third countries is not a priority for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Morrison told reporters that his government “is in no hurry to open the borders.”
Australia and New Zealand have virtually lifted all measures to combat the pandemic.
Australia had planned to reopen the country at the end of the year, but problems in the immunization schedule, following delays in vaccine supplies, and other factors have complicated the roadmap.
Ardern, on the other hand, has well managed the pandemic and allowed the Kiwis to live routine lives, winning international praises.
She has indicated the progressive opening of international borders.
New Zealand now plans to open another bubble travel to the Cook Islands in May.
New Zealand has a total of 2,240 Covid-19 infections and 26 deaths.