New Zealand is about to welcome Queensland back into the trans-Tasman bubble, leaving crisis-hit NSW the only outlier.
Jacinda Ardern’s government has ticked off the return of the sunshine state to the quarantine-free travel arrangement from Tuesday, a fortnight after closing the bubble to all of Australia.
“Officials have confirmed the health risk from Queensland is now low,” a health ministry statement issued on Monday read.
“Quarantine Free Travel from Queensland to New Zealand can resume from 11.59pm (NZT) tonight.”
It comes as NSW confirmed 112 more community virus cases on Monday – and Kiwis stranded in the state when the bubble was popped the discovery of COVID-19 at a Northern Territory mine site flocked to book seats on emergency flights home.
Quarantine-free travel to NZ has already resumed for other Australian states and territories.
But the growing outbreak in NSW has left thousands of Kiwis trapped after travelling to Sydney prior to the border closure.
Last week, the NZ government announced plans for mercy flights to ferry home its stranded citizenry.
On Friday, in response to growing case numbers, it altered those plans, requiring any returning Kiwis to spend a fortnight in quarantine on arrival.
That didn’t deter a flood of bookings on return flights. Nine Air New Zealand flights from Sydney sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale on Monday morning.
“We would love to be able to bring more Kiwis home to their families, but we’re limited by the availability of [quarantine] spots,” Air NZ executive Leanne Geraghty said.
“Our teams have worked tirelessly with the government over the weekend to get these managed return flights up and running so we can reconnect Kiwis with their loved ones.
“We recognise this is a very stressful and emotional time for those customers wishing to return from NSW, and we’re doing everything we can to get them home as quickly and as safely as possible.”