Australia-NZ bubble set for April 19
At long last, the trans-Tasman bubble will open on April 19.
On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the keenly anticipated date for scrapping the quarantine requirement for Australian travellers, declaring it an "exciting day".
"The trans-Tasman bubble represents the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery. One that people have worked so hard for," she said.
"I know families, friends and significant parts of our economy will welcome it as I certainly do."
As most Australian states have already ditched quarantine for visiting Kiwis, the decision creates the bubble for the first time since it was agreed last May.
Ms Ardern defended her government's tardiness in opening up, saying this was "exactly the right time" to do so.
"We are now able to take this next step and it is a world first," Ms Ardern said.
The decision will delight hundreds of thousands of families separated by the pandemic.
It's also a shot in the arm for New Zealand's ailing tourism industry.
Australia provides more visitors than any other country to New Zealand, and the announcement is expected to start a stampede across the Tasman.
Ms Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison first agreed the goal after the Kiwi leader's virtual attendance at a National Cabinet meeting in May.
Mr Morrison welcomed the bubble.
"It's something we have been talking about for some time (and) the first of many more steps to come, I believe, as we get back to a more normal position," he said.
"All in time for Anzac Day which is tremendous to see that occur in the true Anzac spirit of our nations coming together again."
The New Zealand leader acknowledged those who had suffered due to the necessary border arrangements.
"One sacrifice that has been particularly hard for many to bear over the past year has been the separation from friends and family who live in Australia," she said.
"Today's announcement will be a great relief for many.
"Like everyone else ... I have family and friends in distressing situations because we have had this border in place."
The Australian and NZ borders have been shut to almost all non-citizens since March last year, with both countries requiring arrivals to spend a fortnight in quarantine before entering the community.
Ms Ardern also announced a new traffic light-themed system to guide Kiwis while travelling overseas, saying they may be subjected to prolonged stays in Australia or be required to quarantine on return in the event of outbreaks.
"Quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-COVID-19, and those undertaking travel will do so under the guidance of 'flyer beware'," she said.
"People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak."
Travellers will not be required to produce a negative test before jetting off, though the government may add that requirement in the case of outbreaks.
Ms Ardern said she spoke to Mr Morrison on Monday night and premiers Gladys Berejiklian and Annastacia Palaszczuk about NZ's decision on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison is also likely to be one of the first to utilise quarantine-free travel, with an Australia-NZ Leaders' Meeting to be scheduled imminently.
© AAP 2021