COVID-19: Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia resumes

Cityscape image of Sydney, Australia with Harbor Bridge and Sydney skyline during sunset. Vacation and travel in Australia.
Photo credit: Getty

New Zealanders are once again permitted to enter Australia without being required to quarantine on arrival.

The one-way air bridge will resume on Sunday following a temporary suspension. 

Australian authorities placed New Zealand on its 'Red Zone' list after cases of COVID-19 were detected in the community. Last Sunday, a mother, father, and daughter in the south Auckland suburb of Papatoetoe tested positive for the virus, with genomic sequencing later confirming the three were carrying the highly infectious B.1.1.7 strain, first identified in the UK.

The Auckland region was swiftly plunged into a provisional three-day lockdown to curb any potential spread of the virus, while the rest of New Zealand was placed under alert level 2 restrictions. In response to the new cluster, Australia made it compulsory for all passengers arriving from New Zealanders to complete 14 days of quarantine in a supervised hotel. 

This was extended on Thursday, despite the Government's decision to shift Auckland down to the more relaxed alert level 2 restrictions. The rest of New Zealand has also moved back to level 1. 

In a notice posted on its Smart Traveller website earlier this week, the Australian government said all flights from New Zealand to Australia were classified as Red Zone until at least February 21. 

New Zealanders who have been in Auckland within a two-week period prior to departure will be required to return a negative test less than 72 hours before entering Australia. 

Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) - comprising state and territory health officials - met on Saturday and received a briefing from their New Zealand counterparts.

Prof Kelly said the data suggested travellers entering from New Zealand posed a "low risk" of bringing COVID-19 into Australia.

"The AHPPC monitors the situation in many locations and will continue to advise on a range of decisions in the interest of the health of all Australians," Prof Kelly said in a statement, as reported by the ABC.

"These decisions are not easy and we do not take them lightly, and all AHPPC members appreciate the ongoing patience and flexibility of Australians and New Zealanders, including those in the tourism and travel industry.

"We will continue to move quickly to protect Australians as circumstances change, but we will always endeavour to move just as quickly when those situations are brought under control, or otherwise resolve."

As before, quarantine-free travel is a one-way arrangement and only applies to New Zealanders travelling to Australia.

The arrangements will be reviewed by the end of the month.