NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has argued there is “no reason” why Australia should not introduce a two-way travel bubble to New Zealand and the Pacific islands this year.
It comes after the New Zealand minister responsible for the country’s COVID response surprisingly said he is still committed to making quarantine free trans-Tasman travel work soon despite a small resurgence of Australian cases at Christmas.
Previously, the country has taken an approach of attempting to eradicate the virus altogether, which resulted in a second lockdown of Auckland in August last year.
“There is no reason why we shouldn’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific islands well within the next 12 months,” Premier Berejiklian told The SMH on Wednesday.
It comes after New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The Guardian last week that a decision would be made on a date “early this year, as conditions allow”.
In December, Australian Aviation reported how New Zealand pledged to drop its border restrictions to Australia in the first quarter of 2021.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would name the exact date in the new year and added any opening wouldn’t take place until contingencies were in place to deal with a future COVID outbreak.
A one-way ‘travel bubble’ opened in October allowing Kiwis to enter Australia without quarantine, but not the other way around. It had initially been hoped two-way travel would be permitted before the end of 2020.
“It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of trans-Tasman quarantine free travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” said PM Ardern.
“But I think for now, New Zealanders by and large appreciate the approach of the government to ensure that we are not taking on an unnecessary risk as we’re going into the summer.
“We’ve never been wanting to put specific dates prematurely before we’ve made final decisions because people make plans, people book flights, and people may potentially have quarantine bookings that they could cancel.
“We don’t want anyone to do that prematurely until we have certainty around when it will open.”
The debate over international travel was restarted in Australia again this week after the Secretary of the Department of Health said it was unlikely international borders will reopen in 2021.
“I think that we’ll go most of this year with substantial border restrictions, even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated,” said Professor Brendan Murphy.