So, the travel bubble with New Zealand will start on 19thof April and we all know that Australians will be able to travel quarantine free to New Zealand, however it is important to understand exactly what it will be like.
Last week NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that her government had approved the start of the two-way trans-Tasman travel bubble from Monday 19 April and that her government has worked hard to ensure it is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.
“Quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’,” she said.
“People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.
“Just as we have our alert level settings for managing cases in New Zealand, we will also now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: continue, pause, suspend.”
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, said the government has added further layers to manage risk at the border.
“To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, people must not have had a positive COVID-19 test result in the previous 14-day period and must not be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test taken during that period,” he said.
“When those in Australia decide to come to New Zealand, they will be making a booking on a ‘Green Zone Flight’. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days.
“They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes for a set period of time.
Hipkins said passengers will also need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and will not be able to travel if they have a cold or flu symptoms.
“When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on their flight and will also be asked to download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app while in New Zealand,” he said.
“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we call the green zones at the airport – meaning there will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine.
“We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution.
The only caveat is for Queenslanders where a decision will be made on Wednesday, April 14 on whether people flying from the sunshine state to New Zealand would need to get a test before they board their flights or face any extra restrictions.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is currently in talks with airlines to resume direct flights from NZ to regional tourism destinations in Queensland.
“Final infection control audits for airports are occurring over the next two weeks and are a requirement for each airport to operate. The Ministry of Health expects to have completed these and to have reported on them on 16 April.”
The NZ government’s traffic light system for managing a COVID-19 outbreak in Australia
Hipkins said it is estimated the bubble will free up 1,000 to 1,300 rooms per fortnight within managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).
“Of these, we will retain roughly 500 spaces as [a] contingency should they be needed for the trans-Tasman arrangement,” he said.
“We also have a small number of facilities that we consider to have only been suitable for travellers in quarantine from low-risk countries.
“With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities, but in the meantime, we are considering whether they could be used for other low-risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands.
“As a result of this, we do not anticipate a large number of vacant quarantine spaces to come on stream. There will, however, still be thousands of spaces in MIQ for Kiwis. That’s how we have helped 130,000 safely return home through our managed isolation facilities.”
Air New Zealand is ramping up flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and eight of its Australian ports.
Qantas and Jetstar have announced that they will restart flying to all pre-COVID destinations in New Zealand when the two-way Trans-Tasman bubble opens on April 19.
With flights available to book now, both Qantas and Jetstar will initially operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, offering more than 52,000 seats each week. Plus, they’ve announced new Auckland – Cairns and the Gold Coast routes.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has previously announced the suspension of most of its NZ flights until later this year, saying the “evolving border requirements” of the bubble adds too much “complexity” to its business.
The cheapest return flights we could find ex Sydney to Auckland in the first week of quarantine-free travel were $479 on Jetstar, $608 on Air New Zealand and $658 on Qantas which all things considered is still reasonable.
Although most would think that the Australian travel industry would perceive the opening of a Trans-Tasman bubble as a significant positive step forward, the industry group representing travel agents does not see it that way, The Australian reports.
Travel agents fear that cases in Auckland will continue to arise as long as the city accepts flights from India, and any number of cases are likely to spur snap lockdowns that would spook and greatly inconvenience customers just as they are trying to repair trust in the industry.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents says its preference is for international travel to resume “slowly once the vaccination rollout was nearing completion so people could book with confidence”.
By Joe Cusmano