The first flight carrying hundreds of visitors from New Zealand arrived in Australia on Friday as the two countries began their experiment with a trans-Tasman travel bubble.
So far, the easing of quarantine mandates is one-sided, with all Australian travelers still required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in New Zealand, Reuters reported. But passengers arriving from New Zealand can skip quarantine requirements upon arriving in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Plans to institute a travel bubble, which both countries hope will provide a much-needed tourism boost, were on hold for months after coronavirus cases popped up in New Zealand and as cases surged in parts of Australia in August. New Zealand has subsequently managed to bring its outbreak under control, and caseloads have fallen dramatically in Australia.
Victoria, the state at the center of the Australian outbreak, reported just two new cases on Friday, its lowest tally since June. Lockdown restrictions are still in place, but Premier Daniel Andrews has said that the rules could be eased, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Australia’s Nine News reported that many of the passengers arriving in Sydney from New Zealand on Friday were reuniting with loved ones they had not seen for months. One passenger was a man who had not seen his wife since he traveled to New Zealand for work in February.
While it’s not clear when Australians will be allowed to skip New Zealand’s quarantine, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told Nine News that “we are only a few days away” from being able to say that certain Australian states are “on top of” the virus.
Other countries or regions plan to experiment with a similar model. This week, Singapore and Hong Kong agreed to create a two-way travel bubble for people who test negative for the coronavirus. While logistics are still being worked out, passengers could begin traveling between the two cities in a matter of weeks, according to the Straits Times.