After a week of sustained pressure in parliament, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister says quarantine-free travel for Australians is “not far off”.
Confused with all the Trans-Tasman bubble updates? Yeah, us too. However, it looks like we could be a step closer to (finally) getting quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand approved.
Speaking on Radio NZ on Thursday, Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, said there were “still a few issues to talk through” before the creation of the mooted trans-Tasman bubble.
“That includes what we do in the event there is an outbreak, how we manage people who aren’t in their home country at that time,” he said.
“I’m very optimistic we’ll sort that out in reasonably short order.”
What’s going on?
New Zealand’s borders have been closed to all but citizens, regular residents and a limited number of exemptions for the last 12 months.
This measure has helped Jacinda Ardern’s government repress the spread of COVID-19, but it has also crippled the tourism industry and separated families.
New Zealanders have, by and large, supported the border measures, but given Australia’s similar degree of control over the virus, calls to restore normal practices have grown louder.
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The opposition National party has made the issue their number one priority in parliament this week, pushing the government in question time on the matter.
It has also launched a petition to open the border, which has gathered tens of thousands of signatures in a few days.
Aside from New Zealand’s all-engrossing win in the America’s Cup, the creation of the trans-Tasman bubble is now a top-line issuein Aotearoa.
On Thursday, a number of Kiwi media outlets reported, without attribution, the government is targeting April to relax quarantine requirements.
A spokesman for the prime minister said those timelines were speculative.
While Mr Robertson’s comments certainly point towards progress, the government has walked away from its own timelines before.
Last year, Ms Ardern gave her hope for a September opening, only for Melbourne’s major outbreak to squash those hopes.
In the last few weeks, she has backed away from a previous promise to open in the first quarter of 2021.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins told parliament the government had yet to take a number of decisions – including a testing regime and what it would do in the case of a fresh outbreak.
He also indicated airlines and airports would need at least three weeks notice before resuming quarantine-free travel.
Three Australian states – NSW, Victoria and Queensland – have allowed New Zealanders to visit without the need for a 14-day quarantine at various points since last year.
New Zealand is yet to do the same. But our fingers, toes, legs and arms are crossed for the bubble!
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