What could derail travel to New Zealand
After a long wait, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the trans-Tasman travel with Australia will launch by March 2021.
While Ms Ardern didn't give a firm date, she told reporters today that her cabinet has now agreed to establish the quarantine-free corridor in the first quarter of 2021, providing Australia can keep COVID-19 case levels low and pending our own cabinet approval.
"It is our intention to name a date of when the bubble will start in the New Year," she said.
"The opening of the bubble is contingent on Australia's Cabinet signing it off, and that the COVID-19 situation in either country doesn't change.
"I'm incredibly proud of what our team of five million have achieved.
"New Zealand currently has the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate and lowest number of active cases of OECD countries."
From what it means for you to how it will work, here's everything we know about the trans-Tasman bubble so far.
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WHAT IS A TRANS-TASMAN TRAVEL BUBBLE?
A trans-Tasman travel bubble will mean that Australians will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days when they fly across the ditch.
If it sounds kind of familiar, that's because it is - Australia already has one in place with New Zealand, though it only functions one way.
This means New Zealanders can travel into most parts of Australia (bar the ACT and Western Australia) without needing to enter mandatory hotel quarantine - but they still have to isolate for two weeks when they head home.
"We consciously opened up Australia to people coming from New Zealand because their case numbers were negligible and we knew there would come a time when our case numbers gave them confidence," Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said this afternoon, responding to the news.
"This is a sign that New Zealand and Australia aren't just working together but that families can be back together in both directions, friends can be back together in both directions and flights can be full in both directions, which is good for the economy, good for our airlines and good for both countries."
HOW WILL IT WORK?
While Ms Ardern didn't provide much detail this morning on the specifics around the trans-Tasman bubble, a look at New Zealand's recent bubble with the Cook Islands could provide some hints.
The arrangement with the Cook Islands is New Zealand's first reciprocal travel bubble, and "recognises the special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Ilsands", Ms Ardern said in a statement over the weekend.
Both nations also cited low infection rates as being behind the decision to open their borders, with the bubble also set to commence in the first quarter of next year.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown called the plan "the next step towards resuming many aspects of life in the Cook Islands that have been disrupted by COVID-19, including access to health and education, and reuniting family and friends".
Ms Ardern and Mr Brown have instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence the two-way quarantine-free travel.
In a statement, Ms Ardern said it was the first step of part of a "phased approach".
"Quarantine-free access for travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand will provide for the movement of people for delivering essential services, while allowing officials to finalise preparations for a safe return to two-way quarantine-free travel."
WHAT COULD THREATEN THE PLAN?
Plans for a two-way trans-Tasman bubble have been shelved before - and Ms Ardern said there are still hurdles that need to be crossed so it doesn't happen again.
One of the biggest in establishing a bubble is the segregation of passengers from "safe zone" countries deemed low risk, and those travelling in from COVID-19 affected countries.
Another issue to be resolved is a contingency plan in case there's a resurgence of numbers in Australia.
New Zealand's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will be visiting Auckland Airport tomorrow to see how they plan to organise segregating travellers.
According to the New Zealand Herald, one of the options on the table for bringing back New Zealanders from Australia if there was an outbreak is for those returning travellers to self-isolate when they return home depending on this.
Mr Hipkins also said the airlines which have grounded fleet and furloughed staff have indicated they'd need a notice period before the trans-Tasman bubble becomes operational.
Originally published as What could derail travel to NZ returning