Australia-New Zealand travel projected to start in March . . .
New Zealand’s Cabinet has approved in principle a travel bubble with Australia to start by the end of March 2021. The ‘trans-Tasman’ (Australia and New Zealand are on either side of the Tasman Sea) bubble, which will allow for quarantine-free travel, is projected to be a much-needed lifeline for the two countries’ economically-important tourism sectors. The initiative will be contingent on no further outbreaks in either country and Australian approval. The two southern neighbours agreed to a one-way travel bubble last October. Travellers from New Zealand to certain Australian states are not required to quarantine, though quarantine is still required for people travelling in the other direction. However, the ongoing quarantine in New Zealand and some Australian states, combined with recently-ended COVID outbreaks in Australia and borders remaining closed to travellers from elsewhere, have meant trans-Tasman flights remain at only five per cent of their pre-pandemic levels.
Travel bubbles elsewhere in the Asia Pacific . . .
Many countries in the Asia Pacific will look with envy at the Australia-New Zealand initiative. Singapore and Hong Kong, for example, have twice delayed their planned bilateral travel bubble, once in late November and again earlier this month. The decision will be reviewed between Christmas and New Year. China and Japan resumed bilateral quarantine-free business travel in late November, although travellers must test negative for COVID-19 and submit an itinerary in advance of travel. Longer-term visitors travelling in either direction still need to undertake a two-week quarantine. After announcing that flights would open with select Asian jurisdictions in September, Vietnam quickly reversed its decision after confusion about quarantine standards and rising case numbers in travel partners.
Caution and care in resuming international travel . . .
High-level discussions on the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble began in April. The following month, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern joined a meeting of the Australian cabinet by video link to discuss the issue. Both countries have negligible active COVID cases. As COVID vaccine roll-outs begin in many parts of the world, international travel will likely return, although it is unclear when it will become routine again. An international travel pass that attests to a person’s vaccine status or recent negative COVID test may soon become the norm.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: New Zealand offers travel bubble with Australia if coronavirus cases stay low
- Radio New Zealand: Tourism industry hopeful after plans for trans-Tasman travel bubble announced
- The Straits Times: Singapore continuing to seek new travel bubble partners despite HK setback: Ong Ye Kung