News Coronavirus New Zealand travel bubble could open by Christmas, but there’s a catch

New Zealand travel bubble could open by Christmas, but there’s a catch

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a travel bubble could be open before the end of the year. Photo: TND
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Just when it seemed we’d given up hope, talks of a ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand have started again.

And the deal could come to fruition before the end of the year – just in time for summer holidays.

This means families separated by the Tasman Sea could have Christmas together, and daydreams of bungee jumping in Queenstown might soon be a real possibility.

Queenstown’s bungee jumps attract daredevils from all over the world. Photo: Getty

So what does it mean for us? And how might it work?

The two nations started talking about a potential ‘travel bubble’ months ago, but delayed talks after Melbourne and Auckland suffered a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Now that Australia’s coronavirus case numbers have fallen to manageable levels, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said if that downward trend continued then a ‘travel bubble’ could be “possible”.

However, this does not mean the floodgates will be flung open to all of Australia.

Like all plans made in the era of COVID-19, it will require a slow and steady approach.

Will all Australians be included in the bubble?

Not immediately – and zero points for guessing which city is excluded.

As Australia’s pariah during the pandemic, Melbourne will be last on the waiting list.

But Queenslanders are in luck.

Ms Ardern specifically named Queensland as one of the states first to join the trans-Tasman bubble, hopefully before the end of the year.

“The Australians have moved on their previous plans,” she told TVNZ.

“Previously they wanted a whole of Australia approach and we said that would slow things down.

“They’re now moving to a hotspot regime where certain parts (of Australia) won’t be able to be part of free movement between Australia and across the Tasman.”

It has been nearly three weeks since Queensland last recorded a case that posed a risk of community transmission – a milestone that Kiwis are no doubt celebrating, too.

After enduring a series of hard lockdowns in NZ, many will seize the chance to throw down their beach towels at Noosa.

Queensland’s picturesque beaches could soon be open to Kiwis. Photo: Getty

What does this mean for state and territory borders?

Under the trans-Tasman travel bubble plans, regions where coronavirus outbreaks have been detected will become ‘hotspots’ banned to Kiwis.

For this to work, tough border restrictions must remain in place.

“What we’d need to be assured of is when Australia is saying, ‘We’ve got a hotspot over here’, that the border around that hotspot means we aren’t able to travel into the states we are engaging with on trans-Tasman travel,” Ms Ardern said.

“We’re working through … the arrangements we would need to ensure that if we’re opening up to one state, that border is contained to ensure it’s safe for New Zealanders.”

This may mean that Queenslanders will be able to travel to NZ long before they can visit Melbourne.

Will I have to endure hotel quarantine?

Not necessarily.

At the moment, the only people allowed to enter NZ are Kiwi citizens or Australians who normally live there, except limited exemptions for humanitarian or economic reasons.

All returned travellers must spend 14 days in quarantine upon arrival.

But a travel bubble could change this.

Ms Ardern said now that the Morrison government has abandoned its “whole of Australia” approach, there would be “opportunities” for travel without the two-week forced isolation.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia may in turn allow Kiwis to visit without the 14-day quarantine given NZ’s strong record of keeping out the coronavirus.

On Sunday, Ms Ardern’s deputy, Winston Peters, said the government was working “as hard as we possibly can” towards the resumption of travel, adding “some were saying by Christmas”.

“We should be able to do it much sooner than that,” he said.