New Zealand, Australia to open COVID travel bubble

New Zealand approved quarantine-free travel with Australia Tuesday, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying a two-way corridor for travel between the two largely COVID-free nations to begin on April 18.

“I can confirm that quarantine-free travel will begin in just under two weeks, at 11:59pm on April 18,” Ardern announced after the date was confirmed by her cabinet.

The travel bubble comes more than a year after New Zealand closed its doors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and six months after Australia allowed New Zealanders to fly into selected states without the need to quarantine. 

Ardern described it as a world leading move between New Zealand, with just 26 deaths in a population of five million, and Australia with fewer than 1,000 deaths in a population of 25 million. 

“I cannot see or point to any countries in the world that are maintaining a strategy of keeping their countries Covid-free whilst opening up international travel between each other,” she said.

“That means in a way we are world leading.”

New Zealand’s beleaguered tourism industry said the long-awaited completion of the travel bubble could inject up to a billion NZ dollars (US$705 million) into the economy this year.

Ardern urged Australians to take advantage of the bubble, with New Zealand’s ski season on the horizon.

“We are a safe place to bring your family to come and visit,” she said during a press conference. 

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