Australia and New Zealand will form two-way travel bubble in 2021

The virus-free trans-Tasman corridor is set to start before the end of March

New Zealand plans to operate a virus-free travel corridor with Australia in the first quarter of 2021. Unsplash 
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New Zealand's prime minister has agreed to a quarantine-free travel agreement with Australia.

Jacinda Ardern said that the virus-free travel corridor could start early next year, once details have been finalised.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting, Ardern also said that the agreement would depend on Covid-19 case numbers in both countries not worsening.

The two countries already have a limited travel corridor. New Zealanders have been allowed to travel to Australia without quarantine since October. All travellers flying from Australia to New Zealand must currently quarantine for 14 days.

Travel bubble to begin in first quarter of 2021

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 08: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a media lock-up ahead of the release of the Royal Commission of Inquiry in relation to the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques at Parliament on December 08, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. The Royal Commission report into the 2019 terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques will be released on Tuesday 8 December.  51 people were killed after a man opened fire at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March 2019. The Australian gunman was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being found guilty of 92 charges relating to what was New Zealand's worst mass shooting in history. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media on December 8, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand. Getty Images

"It is our intention to name a date ... in the New Year once remaining details are locked down," Ardern said at a news conference in the New Zealand capital of Wellington. She confirmed plans were focused on the first quarter of 2021.

Initial plans for the "Trans-Tasman Bubble" were paused in August after Australia recorded a spike in coronavirus cases.

Ardern has been cautious about opening up New Zealand again after the country successfully controlled the virus by enforcing strict lockdown measures. Borders are currently closed to everyone except citizens and residents.

The prime minister said that more work was required to ensure safe travel and that the country would move cautiously to finalise arrangements such as managing airline crews and incoming travellers.

"This is a sign that New Zealand and Australia aren’t just working together, but that families can be back together in both directions, friends can be back together in both directions and flights can be full in both directions," Australian health minister Greg Hunt told reporters.

Quarantine-free travel to Cook Islands

Australia, too, has been largely successful in controlling the virus. Only Australians, permanent residents and New Zealanders can currently fly into the country without quarantine. Australia’s tourism minister said in June that the country’s borders would remain closed until 2021.

New Zealand will form a travel bubble with the Cook Islands before the end of March 2021. Courtesy flickr / Gemma Longman
New Zealand will form a travel bubble with the Cook Islands before the end of March 2021. Courtesy flickr / Gemma Longman

The travel bubble announcement between Australia and New Zealand came two days after New Zealand said it would begin a quarantine-free travel bubble with the Cook Islands.

This reciprocal set-up is planned to begin in March 2021 and is the first travel bubble New Zealand has agreed to since closing its borders when the coronavirus first hit earlier this year.