Following sustained periods of lockdown which have led to low levels of Covid-19 cases, Australia and New Zealand today announced the ambitious plan to introduce a travel bubble between the two countries in 2021. The travel bubble – which is contingent on levels of the virus in both countries remaining low – will be a welcome boost to travelers in both countries. Here’s a closer look at travel bubbles, and what this news might mean for travelers.
What Are Travel Bubbles?
Ever since countries started to turn the tide on the war against the pandemic, the notion of a “travel bubble” – also referred to as a “travel corridor” by some – has been a popular buzzword used by travelers and politicians alike.
Travel bubbles are partnerships between two or more different countries that allow less-restricted travel across borders. Whilst the agreements may differ on a case by case basis and involve different things, many of the travel bubbles that have been discussed during the pandemic share the condition that travel between the countries involved would be quarantine free.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania created Europe’s first travel bubble, which was then followed by the “Re-Open EU” initiative, which allowed controlled travel throughout the Schengen Area and Britain. However, some travel bubbles have been agreed only to fall at the last minute, such as the Singapore and Hong Kong travel which was postponed indefinitely following a new wave of cases in Hong Kong.
The Australia-New Zealand Travel Bubble
Speaking in her final press conference of the year, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who has been lauded her efforts towards controlling the spread of the virus – announced that her government has signed off on a timeline for the travel bubble to be created, with the creation expected to come before the end of March.
Whilst a formal agree hasn’t been made yet, her comments were warmly received by Australian politicians on the other side of the proposal, which suggests that the bubble will be agreed upon sooner rather than later. Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said his country was “ready to implement from our side as soon as New Zealand is ready,” before later adding that his government would “absolutely” approve the agreement.
At present, whilst New Zealanders are free to travel to most places in Australia, they must quarantine for a period of two weeks when they arrive back home. Australians, on the other hand, are currently not allowed into New Zealand. The bubble will allow quarantine-free travel across the borders for both nations.
Such an agreement is dependent on both countries keeping their Covid-19 infection rates low. In recent months, both New Zealand and Australia have registered low numbers of daily cases, reporting single-digit numbers of cases on many days and only rarely seeing case levels going into double digits. Should the figures stay on the low side, the travel bubble is likely to be created within the first quarter of 2021.
What Does This Mean For Travelers?
This decision is bound to be warmly received by both Australian and Kiwi travelers, who will soon be able to travel between the two countries without having to quarantine. Onlookers from other countries will be hoping that the initiative is successful, as a successful travel bubble between these two nations may provide the blueprint for further travel bubbles to follow in the future.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories