Australia, which has kept its borders strictly closed to people from overseas since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, is opening them again, only for people from New Zealand with the first planeload on Air New Zealand on Friday.
In what is known as a “limited trans-Tasman bubble”, people from New Zealand will be able to travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory without having to quarantine on arrival from Friday. There were 11 new cases – six local transmissions and five in hotel quarantine – of COVID-19 in Sydney, NSW, on Thursday.
Of the 11 new cases to 8pm last night:
• Five were acquired overseas and are now in hotel quarantine
• Four were locally acquired and linked to a known case or cluster
• Two were locally acquired with the source still under investigation
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 15, 2020
The Australian Government Department of Home Affairs states people can travel from New Zealand to Australia quarantine free if they have been in New Zealand for 14 days or more and not been in a designated hotspot.
A COVID-19 hotspot is defined as a place with a rolling three-day average of three cases a day. There are currently no hotspots in New Zealand.
These passengers must travel to Australia on a “quarantine-free flight”, which only carries those who meet the requirements.
“You do not need to be a New Zealand citizen to travel to Australia quarantine free if you meet the above criteria, but you will need a valid visa to enter Australia,” Australia’s Department of Home Affairs states.
“New Zealand citizens do not need to apply for a visa before coming to Australia.”
The opening of the Australian border is currently limited to travel to NSW and the NT, but other states and territories may be added at a later date.
Before travelling to Australia, passengers must print and compete a COVID-19 declaration form and present it at check-in at the airport. If passengers don’t present this form, they may not be able to board their flight.
On arrival in Australia, there will be green and red zones at the airport to separate passengers arriving on “quarantine-free” flights and those who must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
“If you travel on a quarantine-free flight, you will be guided through the green zone to complete all border clearance processes in the airport of arrival in Australia,” the Department of Home Affairs states.
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said in a statement that the airline has introduced “quarantine” and “quarantine-free” flights to Australia in line with the safe travel zone requirements.
“The quarantine-free flights will be for travellers originating from New Zealand who are flying from Auckland to Sydney and are not required to quarantine on arrival in Australia. Quarantine flights will be open to passengers who do not meet the Safe Travel Zone criteria and will be required to quarantine on arrival in Australia,” he said.
“Flight NZ103 tomorrow will depart Auckland at 10.40am NZT and will be a quarantine-free flight. It is expected to arrive in Sydney around 12.20pm AEDT.
“It’s been a huge undertaking to ensure we are ready for this one-way arrangement. We know passengers onboard may have been waiting a long time to get back to NSW. Around 90% of those travelling on tomorrow’s flight are booked to travel one-way.”
Air New Zealand is operating eight return flights between Auckland and Sydney per week and would look to operate two quarantine flights per week, with the remaining flights quarantine free.
Between October 16 and 24, Air New Zealand will operate three quarantine flights – on October, 17, 22 and 24 – and all other flights would be quarantine free. On October 22, the airline will operate both a quarantine-free and a quarantine flight.
The limited trans-Tasman bubble is only one-way at present, with passengers returning to New Zealand from Australia still having to complete 14 days of managed isolation on their return.