New Zealand opens up to quarantine-free 'flyer beware' travel from Australia

People arriving in NZ from Australia will be pushed to use New Zealand's COVID Tracer app.

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New Zealand 'Beehive'

Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet

International travel from Australia to New Zealand is set to resume from April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday.

Under the terms of the travel bubble, those on quarantine-free flights must not have had a positive COVID test in the past fortnight nor be awaiting test results, complete a pre-departure health declaration, and be without cold or flu symptoms.

The flights, dubbed green zone flights, will be restricted to only those that board travellers who have been in Australia for 14 days, use crew that have not flown on "any high risk routes for a set period of time", and have mandatory in-flight mask wearing. After landing in New Zealand, travellers on those flights will be kept separate from other international arrivals that need to head into managed isolation or quarantine.

"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'," Ardern said.

"People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak."

Travellers may need to pass a random temperature check, and will be asked to install New Zealand's COVID Tracer app.

New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the nation has been working with airlines to ensure passengers got the message about installing the app, but that it wouldn't be mandatory.

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"We have to allow for the fact that not everyone travelling will have a phone that's capable of doing that, particularly some of our elderly population have been more reluctant to take up the use of the app," he said.

"We've also got some systems in place to make sure that we're able to share information backwards and forwards, if we contact tracing on both sides of the Tasman."

Ardern added that traveller information was generally very good due to airlines needing to contact passengers if changes to flights occurred. 

"People need to be contacted by the airline should anything happen to their passage and so that's information we can access for the purposes of contact tracing," she said.

"We will be asking airlines in-flight to advertise details around our contact tracing app, but we will not be asking any traveller to do any more than we do any other New Zealander, which is 'use it' but without compelling people or fining people if they don't."

Travel already exists for New Zealanders entering Australia, with Air New Zealand announcing in February it would be running a trial of a digital vaccine travel pass.

Ardern said New Zealand would use its continue, pause, suspend framework on outbreaks in Australia, with travellers potentially needing to quarantine on arrival if travelling from a state with community transmission and cases from unknown sources.

The NZ PM also said the bubble could reach 80% of pre-COVID traffic levels between the two nations.