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Trans-Tasman bubble opens to Victoria

written by Adam Thorn | June 23, 2021
An Air New Zealand 787-9, ZK-NZG, which regularly flies between Melbourne and Auckland. (Victor Pody)
An Air New Zealand 787-9, ZK-NZG, which regularly flies between Melbourne and Auckland. (Victor Pody)

The trans-Tasman bubble opened to Victoria on Wednesday morning after New Zealand paused the arrangement at the end of May.

On Wednesday, three flights will depart Melbourne to Auckland and one to Wellington. The first was a Qantas A330-300, VH-QPA msn 0553, which departed Melbourne at 9:13am as flight QF151 and landed in Auckland at 2:19pm.

New Zealand first paused the bubble to Victoria for an initial 72 hours, but that was repeatedly extended as the state entered its fourth lockdown.

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The decision comes after New Zealand this week similarly paused the arrangement to NSW.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that while the risk to health remains low, there were still “several unknowns” that led to the country taking a “precautionary approach”.

Quarantine-free travel between the two countries only started in April, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had warned the agreement would be temporarily halted in the event of a lockdown.

When New Zealand announced it was starting quarantine-free travel, it said it was doing so under the guidance of what PM Ardern called “flyer beware”. In the event of a COVID cluster, the country will reserve the right to continue, pause or suspend the arrangement.

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If a case was found that was clearly linked to a quarantine facility staff member and was well contained, travel will likely continue.

If a case was found that was not clearly linked, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, New Zealand would likely pause flights from that state in the same way as flights have been paused previously.

But if multiple cases occurred from an unknown origin, flights would likely be suspended for a set period of time.

The last pause to NSW was lifted after only a few days back in May.

The two-way arrangement officially opened on 18 April at 11:59pm and initially, Air New Zealand operated 30 flights on launch day, and Qantas and Jetstar 29.

Qantas and Jetstar will operate 83 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity to New Zealand, and also start two new routes from Auckland to Cairns and the Gold Coast.

In total, the Qantas Group revealed will operate up to 122 return flights per week across the Tasman on 15 routes, or 52,000 seats each week. It had been operating at just 3 per cent pre-COVID capacity during the current one-way arrangement.

Air New Zealand’s 30 daily flights are set to grow to more than 300 per week operating from Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney into Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The news New Zealand was relaxing restrictions to Victoria came as Queensland and SA said they would both open their borders to Greater Melbourne ahead of the school holidays.

“That is great news for people there,” Premier Palaszczuk said, “I know there are a lot of people that would have had their holidays booked to Queensland.”

The news marked a quiet end to Queensland’s previous contentious policy that specified it would only ease border restrictions following 28 days of no unlinked cases via community transmission.

The 28-day policy previously caused arguments between Premier Palaszczuk and her NSW counterpart Gladys Berejiklian, during Sydney’s second-wave of infections.

Meanwhile, South Australia has also announced it will ease border restrictions on travellers from greater Melbourne from 12:01am on Friday, however, will still require those travelling from the Victorian capital to undergo a COVID-19 test after entering SA and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Incoming visitors from greater Melbourne will also be restricted from attending “high-risk locations”, including aged-care facilities and Adelaide Oval, according to South Australia’s co-ordinator and Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.

“But beyond that, they’ll be able to move freely in the South Australian community,” he said.

Regional Victorians will not be subject to any restrictions in South Australia.

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