The New Zealand government intends to establish a travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.
The arrangement would allow people to travel freely between Australia and New Zealand without needing to quarantine for two weeks on arrival. Passengers arriving from New Zealand to Australia are already exempt from quarantine requirements.
The travel bubble was “pending confirmation” from Australian officials, Ms. Ardern said during a live-streamed news conference, and would be contingent on “no significant changes in the circumstances of either country.”
New Zealand has been among the countries least affected by the pandemic, with 2,096 cases and 25 lives lost, according to a New York Times database. In Australia, 28,031 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 908 have died.
In May, the governments of New Zealand and Australia first announced that they had reached a formal agreement to form a travel bubble as soon as it was safe to do so. But surges in the number of cases, most notably in Victoria, Australia, led to the plans being temporarily scrapped.
Ms. Ardern said she would not give a more detailed timeline for when the bubble might be established. Further details still needed to be fine tuned, she said, including how airlines would handle the travel corridor and the two countries’ contingency plans in the event of another outbreak.
New Zealand is expected to establish quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands before it opens its borders to Australia.