Australia-NZ ‘travel bubble’ from April 19

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY: New Zealand and Australia will create a quarantine and Covid-testing free “travel bubble” from April 19, after effectively eradicating the virus by closing borders last year to stop more infections reaching their shores and stringent lockdowns.
Though most Australian states have allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, New Zealand has continued with enforced isolation for arrivals from its neighbour, citing concern about small Covid-19 outbreaks there.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday Australians would now have open access, allowing cross-border travel without mandatory Covid-19 testing — one of the first such agreements since the pandemic prompted countries to block foreign arrivals to stop the virus spreading.
“The Trans-Tasman travel bubble represents a start of a new chapter in our Covid response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard at,” Ardern told reporters in the New Zealand capital Wellington.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the agreement “the first of many more steps to come … as we get back to a more normal position, not only over the course of this year but beyond”.
The virus has effectively been eradicated in both countries, with minor outbreaks the result of leakage from quarantined returned travellers. Australia has recorded about 29,400 virus cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began, while New Zealand has had just over 2,100 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.
A man from the nearby Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea died in an Australian hospital, the authorities said on Tuesday, but the death was not included in Australian statistics since he was diagnosed in his home country before being airlifted.
About 568,000 New Zealand-born people live in Australia, according to 2018 figures. — Reuters