Fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens will be able to travel to Australia and return home without entering two-week quarantine from mid-January, the New Zealand government has announced.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the country’s roadmap out of harsh border restrictions on Wednesday, which includes double-jabbed Kiwis being free to travel to and from Australia from 16 January.
Under the new rules, all travellers will be required to take a COVID test on arrival and self-isolate for seven days before entering the community. Pre-flight testing will also be required prior to departing.
Fully vaccinated New Zealanders have been free to travel to Australia without entering two-week quarantine since 1 November, however, New Zealand is yet to reinstate the two-way travel bubble for Australians to enter.
Hipkins announced that fully vaccinated Kiwis will be allowed to return home from anywhere in the world from 13 February without quarantine, in a system very similar to Australia’s.
Meanwhile, a staged border reopening will begin allowing fully inoculated foreign travellers into New Zealand from 30 April.
It is not yet clear if travellers from Australia will be allowed in from this date, or if the two-way trans-Tasman bubble could be reinstated before then.
Minister Hipkins acknowledged that the easing of restrictions in January will likely disappoint those who were hoping to make it home to New Zealand for Christmas without quarantine, however given the surge of cases elsewhere in the world, Kiwis still need to be “very careful”.
“A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed,” he said.
“This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system.”
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In light of the news, Air New Zealand has announced it is preparing to reinstate its international flight schedule to meet expected demand as restrictions ease.
The airline will cancel all of its “green” flights from Australia to New Zealand from 1-15 January and will assist customers to be reallocated onto “red” flights – for those who can secure a spot in government-managed isolation facilities (MIQ).
All other customers will have their fare placed into credit, as Air New Zealand finalises a new schedule of “green” flights from 16 January.
“Today’s announcement signals the beginning of the return to international travel. This is incredibly exciting news for New Zealanders at home and overseas and we can’t wait to welcome our customers back on board,” said Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty.
“We’ve kept our operation ready for this, so look forward to seeing the tens of thousands of Kiwis who’ll be making plans to board our aircraft soon.”
“A date for travel is the certainty that Air New Zealand has been waiting for, and while it would have been nice to reunite friends and families this side of Christmas, customers will now have the confidence to plan reunions and holidays into the New Year.”
According to Geraghty, there is still hope that the New Zealand government will bring forward its planned easing of international border restrictions to tourists from around the world.
“We can be ready before late April to fly visitors from around the globe and we’re hoping New Zealand’s success with vaccinations will see that decision reviewed and brought forward in the new year.”
It comes just days after Air New Zealand was forced to cancel over 1,000 flights between Australia and New Zealand through to 31 December, as hopes were dashed for a resumption of the trans-Tasman bubble by Christmas.
The airline said that the slew of cancellations, which will affect in excess of 20,000 passengers in total, were necessary due to “uncertainty” over the resumption of quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel.
New Zealand first announced the suspension of its quarantine-free travel agreement with Australia in July, which has since been extended. The trans-Tasman bubble was first implemented in April.
“Now, due to recent statements by the New Zealand government that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand is unlikely to recommence this year, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to change our schedule,” said Geraghty at the time. “This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas.
“I appreciate how difficult this news will be, but our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the New Zealand government.”
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