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Australia and New Zealand to start quarantine-free travel

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Air New Zealand B787 ZK-NZG on approach to Perth Airport 21 March 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement more than a year after New Zealand closed its doors in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

CEO Stephen Byron has said Canberra's COVID-safe record made it the flawless choice to be a port of departure and arrival for trans-Tasman travel, for which there was huge pent-up demand.

"We're opening it at exactly the right time", she said.

"The Director-General of Health considers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine free travel is safe to commence", Ardern said.

Passengers will need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, and they won't be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms.

Ms Ardern, however, warned about the possibility of travel being disrupted going forward if cases are detected.

"We believe that New Zealand will open to Australia on a state-by-state basis, and given the ACT's impeccable response to the pandemic, we would hope to be a consideration for the New Zealand Government", Mr Byron said. The one-way travel corridor began in October previous year, allowing passengers from New Zealand to arrive in Australia without having to quarantine - but they've still been required to quarantine for 14 days after returning to NZ.

Ardern said the decision came after the Cabinet of New Zealand was "presented with advice today that conditions for opening up quarantine-free travel with Australia had been met".

Travellers will be asked to wear masks on the plane, and to download New Zealand's contact-tracing app for use in the country.

"Our consumer research suggests Australians are eager to get on an aircraft and start travelling again with nearly 80 per cent of Australians supportive of creating travel bubbles with countries where levels of COVID-19 are low".

Ms Ardern said they were still awaiting evidence that demonstrated people travelling from high-risk countries would not pose a threat, before establishing a vaccine passport system.

Air New Zealand immediately announced it was ramping up flights to Australia from the current four a week to more than 20 when the bubble takes effect.

However, if the case was not clearly linked and an Australian state responded with a lockdown, this could result in flights being paused.

If we saw multiple cases of unknown origin, flights would likely be suspended for a set period of time.

At the moment, the decision on an need for pre-departure testing has yet to be discussed.

The idea of the travel bubble has been in the news for almost 12 months but has previously been scuttled due to outbreaks.

She believed the country could now manage COVID-19 outbreaks safely, meaning the two-way bubble could be more flexible than first planned.

"While the airline remains committed to Trans-Tasman flying when the market fully recovers, we are mindful of evolving border requirements which add complexity to our business as we push ahead with plans to grow our core domestic Australia operations", the airline said in a statement.

"New Zealand and Australia are in a very lucky position", she said.

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