Australia, New Zealand launch long-anticipated travel bubble
Elation and relief marked the opening of a long-anticipated travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand at Wellington Airport Monday. Children held balloons and banners, and Indigenous Maori performers welcomed the arrivals home with songs.
As the passengers walked a little dazed through the airport gates, they were embraced one after another by family members who rushed forward and dissolved into tears.
The start of quarantine-free travel was a long time coming for families who have been separated by the coronavirus pandemic as well as to struggling tourist operators. It marked the first, tentative steps toward what both countries hope will become a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.
The idea of a travel 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, Wellington Airport painted an enormous welcome sign near its main runway and Air New Zealand ordered some 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.
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.
“Today’s milestone is a win-win for Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies while keeping our people safe," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country was welcoming the new arrivals.
“The bubble marks a significant step in both countries' reconnection with the world and it’s one we should all take a moment to be very proud of," she said.
Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring travelers from Australia to complete a period of 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.
(c) Daily Sabah