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Trans-Trasman bubble to open in two weeks

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Image: RNZ.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that a Trans-Tasman bubble will open on April 19.

Ardern has announced the opening of the bubble in a post cabinet meeting conference alongside COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins.

“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 says.

“Our team’s success in managing COVID-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel.

“One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia, so today’s announcement will be a great relief for many.

“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out.

“We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.”

However, Ardern warned that quarantine free travel will not be what it was pre-Covid 19.

“Those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’. People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak.

“Just as we have our alert level settings for managing cases in New Zealand, we will also now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: continue, pause, suspend,” says Ardern.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says to ensure New Zealand remains on top of Covid-19, the Government has added further layers to manage risk at the border.

“To be eligible to travel to or from New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight, people must not have had a positive Covid-19 test result in the previous 14-day period and must not be awaiting the results of a test taken during that period,” says Hipkins.

“When those in Australia decide to come to New Zealand, they will be making a booking on a green zone flight. That means that there will be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. They will also be flown by crew who have not flown on any high risk routes for a set period of time.”

The Quarantine-Free Travel flow chart highlighting the details behind the 'continue, pause, suspend' system. Photo. Supplied.

Passengers will also need to provide comprehensive information on how they can be contacted while in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and won’t be able to travel if they have cold or flu symptoms.

“When they fly, they will be required to wear a mask on their flight, and will also be asked to download and use the NZ Covid Tracer app while in New Zealand,” Hipkins continues.

“On arrival, passengers will be taken through what we call the green zones at the airport – meaning there will be no contact with those who are arriving from other parts of the world and going into managed isolation or quarantine.

“We will also be undertaking random temperature checks of those arriving as an added precaution.

“Final infection control audits for airports in particular are occurring over the next two weeks and are a requirement for each airport to operate. The Ministry of Health expects to have completed these and to have reported on them on 16 April.”

Chris Hipkins said it is estimated the bubble will free up 1,000 to 1,300 rooms per fortnight within MIQ.

“Of these, we will retain roughly 500 spaces as contingency should they be needed for the Trans-Tasman arrangement.

“We also have a small number of facilities that we consider to have only been suitable for travellers in quarantine from low risk countries. With the opening of travel, we will look to decommission these facilities – but in the meantime we are considering whether they could be used for other low risk countries, such as the Pacific Islands.

“As a result of this, we do not anticipate a large number of vacant quarantine spaces to come on stream. There will, however, still be thousands of spaces in MIQ for Kiwis. That’s how we have helped 130,000 safely return home through our managed isolation facilities.”

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