New Zealand is set to announce today whether it will open quarantine-free travel to Australians, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated that such an arrangement may only be with some Australian states.
Ardern told state broadcaster TVNZ in an interview that initial country-to-country negotiations had turned to state-by-state discussions as the process was taking too long.
“We’ve said: ‘Look, let’s just move state-by-state because it’s actually just taking a bit too much work, a bit too difficult,” Ardern said.
“Let’s just operate as Australia has been operating with us. That’s helping to speed things up.”
Australia’s border has been mostly open to neighbouring New Zealanders since last October, with a few short suspensions when there were small coronavirus outbreaks in Auckland. But New Zealand has delayed returning the favour amid more frequent bursts of COVID-19 clusters across Australia.
Ardern did not give any details on when such a travel arrangement was expected, but local media have reported it may be operational by the end of April. The prime minister is expected to announce her decision in a post-Cabinet news conference later on Monday.
Pressure has been mounting on Ardern’s government to allow Australians entry as the country’s tourism sector struggles without international visitors. The opposition National Party is calling for quarantine-free travel with Australia to start immediately.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this month that a two-way travel arrangement was in New Zealand’s hands.
Australia reopened its quarantine-free bubble to travellers coming from New Zealand on March 11 after it was closed after an outbreak in January.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack also recently said that Australia is working with Singapore to open up an international travel bubble and believes others will open as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out.
“We are working with Singapore at the moment, potentially for a bubble in July,” Mr McCormack, who is also transport minister, recently told the ABC’s Insiders program.
“As the vaccine rolls out not only in Australia but in other countries, we will reopen more bubbles.” He said.
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