New Zealand will allow Australian travellers to enter the country without mandatory hotel quarantine from April 19.
“Cabinet was presented with advice today that conditions for opening up quarantine-free travel with Australia had been met,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Ms Ardern warned people to be prepared to have their travel plans changed at short notice, including landing and going into hotel quarantine.
“Those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware,” she said.
“People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak.”
Australians will be allowed to travel across the ditch quarantine-free technically from 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 18 New Zealand time, so really from Monday, April 19.
As for kiwis looking to come to Australia, the one-way bubble that began last October is still in place, with all states and territories except for Western Australia taking part.
Like New Zealanders coming to Australia, anyone flying into NZ will go through a “green zone” in airports and will be kept separate from other people flying in from around the world.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the announcement from his counterpart across the Tasman.
“After spending all that time in New Zealand, for the past year, I’m sure that so many will be keen to get on that plane and come across,” Mr Morrison said.
“It is a win-win outcome for the trans-Tasman travel to be open — both countries benefit from that occurring.”
The bubble means Australians can fly to anywhere in New Zealand, as long as there are flights operating.
It’s hoped people will take the opportunity while borders to other countries are shut to travel around NZ and inject some much-needed money into its economy.
According to Tourism NZ, in a normal year Australian tourism contributes $NZ2.7 billion ($2.5 billion) to the economy and this year, if everything bubble-wise goes smoothly, they’re hoping it’ll be around $NZ1 billion.
This was really one of the sticking points for Ms Ardern, who had previously said she wouldn’t open up to a full bubble until she was sure she could keep New Zealanders safe.
Ms Ardern has outlined the three responses if a case was detected in Australia: continue, pause or suspend the bubble.
She said that if there was a case linked to a quarantine or border worker who was contained quickly, it would be likely that the bubble would continue.
A pause might be put in place if there was a localised outbreak that led to a short lockdown, like the recent one in Brisbane.
But if there are a number of community cases with an unknown source then the NZ government will suspend the bubble temporarily.
Ms Ardern said if a flight back from Australia did need to go into managed isolation people on board wouldn’t be charged.
She also said a decision would be made next Wednesday on whether people flying from Queensland would need to get a test before they boarded their flights.
Once things are under control it’s been reopened, people are allowed to leave quarantine and it resumes as normal.
Morrison said he hoped the states and territories would take a “proportionate” response to COVID-19 outbreaks in New Zealand, to ensure the bubble would not pop.
“We all understand, whether it’s Prime Minister Ardern or myself, that we’re still not living in a COVID-free environment despite the success of both countries.
“From time to time, the steps might have to be taken to protect both countries if there is a sizeable outbreak.
“I think that’s just assumed.”
This one is up to to the airlines running the flights, mainly Qantas and Air New Zealand.
Virgin Australia has suspended the sale of most of its NZ flights until the end of October, saying the “evolving border requirements” of the bubble adds too much “complexity” to its business.
As per usual, it’ll depend on where you’re going and what time of the year.