New Zealand journey bubble with Australia agreed … however there’s nonetheless no begin date

(CNN) – New Zealand has basically agreed to build a highly anticipated travel bubble with neighboring Australia – although there is still no fixed date for the start of the corridor.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Dec. 14 that a travel bubble was expected in the first quarter of next year, meaning people can travel between the two countries without having to go through a 14-day quarantine at either end.

Since October, travelers from New Zealand have been allowed to travel to certain Australian destinations without quarantine, but must quarantine them upon their return.

Ardern’s announcement means the bubble, which has been debated for months and widely awaited by people in both countries, will finally allow quarantine-free travel in both directions.

Australia and New Zealand have some of the strictest border measures in the world. Both countries closed their borders almost entirely to foreigners in March, and both countries require citizens returning from overseas to be quarantined at a state facility for 14 days at their own expense.

However, these stringent measures have also enabled Australia and New Zealand to contain their coronavirus outbreaks relatively successfully. Australia has reported 28,000 coronavirus cases, including 908 deaths, while New Zealand has reported 1,740 cases and 25 deaths.

Ardern said the bubble is subject to approval by the Australian cabinet and “will not make a material change in the circumstances of either country”. She said the government planned to set a date for the travel bubble next year.

“I think New Zealanders by and large appreciate the government’s approach to ensuring we don’t take unnecessary risks when we go into the summer and a much-needed summer break for New Zealanders.”

The move is significant for both tourism and those who don’t live at home.

Although the two countries are separated by about 2,000 km of sea, they have one of the closest bilateral ties in the world.

Australian passport holders can travel and work in New Zealand indefinitely without a visa, and vice versa. An estimated 670,000 New Zealand citizens live in Australia – around 15% of the New Zealand population – while around 70,000 Australians live in New Zealand. For New Zealanders, it offers more tourist options than domestic destinations, including the Chatham Islands, an archipelago some 500 miles from New Zealand’s South Island that has seen a surge in tourism this year.

Ardern’s announcement comes two days after the country announced plans to introduce quarantine-free travel to the Cook Islands in the first quarter of next year.

Cook Islands is a Pacific island about 2,000 miles, or about a four-hour flight, from Auckland, New Zealand. It is a self-governing country in free association with New Zealand, which means that Cook Islanders have New Zealand passports and can work and live in New Zealand – more than three times as many Cook Islanders live in New Zealand as the Cook Islands themselves.

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