Our team of 5 million is set to extend to a team of 30 million on April 19 when borders between New Zealand and Australia open for quarantine-free travel for the first time since March, 2020.
"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," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.
If you want to take advantage of the re-opening borders and travel to Aussie, here's what you need to know.
- The travel bubble will open on Monday April 19
- It will allow travel to and from New Zealand and all states in Australia
- Travellers 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 COVID-19 test taken during that 14-day period
- Travel between the two countries will operate at three levels: continue, pause, suspend
- Passengers will be taken through airport 'green zones', meaning there will be no travellers arriving from other, less safe parts of the world
- Random temperature checks will take place at the border
- Those with cold or flu symptoms will not be allowed to travel.
Ardern's announcement triggered a flurry of reaction from Danniverke to Darwin.
Only Air NZ and Qantas had daily airfares available to purchase online when Newshub checked early Tuesday morning, with both airlines charging almost identical airfares for return flights between Auckland and Sydney. Air NZ was charging $1,219, while Qantas' price was $1,217.31. Air NZ and Qantas operate a codeshare agreement in New Zealand and Australia, however airfares are expected to drop this evening.
Jetstar and Virgin Australia are yet to respond.
Both Emirates and Singapore Airlines have said they have no plans to enter into the trans-Tasman market, despite previously operating some services between the two countries.
Air NZ also announced it has set up a dedicated team to review COVID-19 compassionate refunds.
The policy has been in place since the start of the pandemic. Customers who can no longer travel due to ill health or financial hardship caused by COVID-19 can apply for a compassionate refund.
Air NZ's chief sales and customer officer Leanne Geraghty said the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble was the right time to remind customers of their refund policy.
"We're now a year on from the start of COVID-19 and know that for many, circumstances have changed. None of us knew how long this was going to last, and how deep the impacts would be. By now, we thought more borders would be open," she said.
"Kiwis in huge numbers have been using the online credit tool to book domestically and we expect another big boost when quarantine-free travel across the Tasman and to the Cook Islands is open. However, we know for some, travel is still out of reach and we want to do what we can to help."
Details of how to go about applying for a COVID-19 compassionate refund can be found on the airline's website.
However, insurance companies may not be quite as compassionate when it comes to COVID-19 travel disruptions.
According to Allianz Partners, there is no cover for "general travel disruptions" due to COVID-19.
That means if there's an outbreak with a subsequent lockdown and border closure resulting in you being trapped in Australia, you'll have to cover the extra costs yourself.
"There is no cover for general travel disruptions or lockdowns, for example if there is a community case in Auckland and the whole city is ordered into lockdown," Allianz Partners CEO Kevin Blyth said.
"Border closures imposed by a government are not covered by any insurer as it is simply not possible to develop a product that accounts for the uncertainty and the level of risk this presents," added Tim Grafton from the CE Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ).
You can get cover for some other COVID-19 related costs should the need arise while you are travelling.
Some policies will cover you for:
- Cancellation costs if you get sick with COVID-19 before your departure
- The cost to return home if a relative becomes sick with COVID-19
- Costs if you get sick with COVID-19 and must quarantine
- Reasonable accommodation costs if the person you were supposed to stay with gets COVID-19
- Cancellation costs if you are an essential health worker and your leave is revoked due to COVID-19.
Keeping NZ COVID-19 free:
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said to ensure New Zealand remains on top of the pandemic, 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 COVID-19 test taken during that 14-day period," Hipkins said.
When people travel from Australia to Aotearoa, 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.
"Passengers will 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," Hipkins said.
"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-19 Tracer app while in New Zealand."
Final infection control audits for airports taking place 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 April 16.