Australia to open border with New Zealand as COVID-19 restrictions ease

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New Delhi (NVI): Australia today announced access to travelers from New Zealand as the country moves to open its first international border following eased restrictions against the novel coronavirus, according to the reports.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to his counterpart from New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, earlier today, agreeing that New Zealanders could visit the jurisdictions from October 16, the BBC reported.

However, the arrangement will initially be one-way, with Australians not able to travel to New Zealand.

New Zealanders would be allowed to fly and visit some parts of the country, including New South Wales and the Northern Territory and will be allowed to avoid mandatory quarantine.

Both the nations closed their borders in mid-March in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, “The establishment of a travel zone between Australia and New Zealand has been finalised. Officials say the risks are now low enough to justify a travel bubble.”

“This is the first stage in what we hope to see as a trans-Tasman bubble between the two countries, stopping not just at that state and that territory,” the BBC quoted McCormack saying. He also said a decision on when Australians may be able to visit New Zealand would be up to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Australia had assessed New Zealand visitors as posing a low risk of COVID-19 transmission as it currently had no hotspots,” McCormack said, adding that, Australia defines a hotspot as any area with at least three local infections per day across a three-day rolling average.

New Zealand’s most recent locally acquired COVID-19 case was reported on August 21.

Whereas, the northern territory of Australia has not recorded any infections in past two months and New South Wales, which includes Sydney – has not seen a locally transmitted case since last week.

Meanwhile, the federal government of Australia has pushed for domestic and international borders to be re-opened as soon as practical to help the economy, but some state governments – which have power over their own borders – have been more resistant.

Victoria remains cut off from the rest of Australia, after an outbreak in the state capital Melbourne which is now abating.

So far, New Zealand has recorded 1,848 cases and 25 deaths, while Australia has seen over 27,000 cases and 888 deaths.

-RJV