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Australia and New Zealand mark 'milestone' with opening of quarantine-free travel bubble

The idea has been proposed for months.

Families embrace after landing on the first Air New Zealand flight to land in Wellington since a bubble was open today
Families embrace after landing on the first Air New Zealand flight to land in Wellington since a bubble was open today
Image: AAP/PA Images

A TRAVEL BUBBLE between Australia and New Zealand has started operating today.

The beginning of quarantine-free travel between the two countries was a relief for families who have been separated by the Covid-19 pandemic and to struggling tourist operators.

It marked the first steps toward what both countries hope will become a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.

The idea of a bubble between Australia and New Zealand had been talked about for months but faced setbacks because of several small virus outbreaks in both countries, which were eventually stamped out.

To mark the occasion of the bubble’s opening, Wellington International Airport painted an enormous welcome sign near its main runway and Air New Zealand ordered 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.

The airline’s chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui said the carrier had previously been running just two or three flights a day between the two countries, but that jumped to 30 flights carrying 5,200 passengers today.

She said the day marked a turning point and people were excited, adding: “You can feel it at the airport and see it on people’s faces.”

The leaders of both countries welcomed the bubble, saying it was a world-leading arrangement because it aimed to both open borders and keep the virus from spreading.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe.”

His New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern said her country was welcoming new arrivals.

She added: “The bubble marks a significant step in both countries’ re-connection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of.”

Travellers who lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early on Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally fly to New Zealand after more than a year.

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Some were visiting family and friends, while others were attending funerals.

Both countries have managed to keep out the virus by putting up barriers to the outside world, including strict quarantine requirements for travellers returning from other countries where the virus is rampant.

Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring travellers from Australia complete a quarantine.

The start of the bubble comes ahead of the New Zealand ski season and is welcome news for many tourist towns, including the ski resort of Queenstown.

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