New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hinted a full trans-Tasman travel bubble could be in doubt after Australia suspended the current one-way arrangement.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ardern said she had “expressed her disappointment” at the move in a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
It comes after Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday any Kiwis arriving in the country over the following three days would be required to enter hotel quarantine. The move was a reaction to a woman in New Zealand testing positive to a more transmissible South African strain of COVID.
On Monday, however, PM Ardern appeared to warn the deal for two-way travel could be off if there is no certainty over borders remaining open.
“If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to be able to give people confidence that we won’t see closures at the borders that happen with very short notice over incidents that we believe can be well managed domestically,” PM Ardern said.
“I certainly shared my view [with PM Morrison] that this was a situation that was well under control, that we have had experiences in New Zealand with these situations in the past, if we’re going to run a trans-Tasman arrangement we need to be able to manage situations like this.”
“We are continuing to pursue [a two-way bubble] but what we will need to establish is a way that we can have that arrangement without seeing such disruption over events that may happen from time to time.”
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ opened in October 2019 allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around.
However, two months later, New Zealand pledged to drop its border restrictions in the first quarter of 2021, making the bubble reciprocal.
PM Ardern’s apparent anger likely stemmed from the country pledging not to delay the two-way travel bubble’s opening despite a resurgence of cases in Australia at Christmas.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The Guardian earlier this month that a decision would be made on a date “early this year, as conditions allow”.