Families, Travelers Reunite As Australia-New Zealand Travel Bubble Opens

New Zealand has been closed to foreign arrivals since the start of the pandemic.

Family members embrace each other at Sydney International Airport
Family members embrace each other upon their arrival from New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on April 19, 2021. . Photo: SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty

Families reunited at New Zealand and Australia airports on Monday as the travel bubble between the two countries opened without the need to quarantine.

"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," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in joint a press release with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

At New Zealand's Wellington Airport, the first flights were celebrated with banners and performances from Indigenous Maori groups. Air New Zealand also offered free glasses of sparkling wine to adult travelers to mark the occasion.

Although New Zealanders have been permitted to visit Australia without quarantine for the past few months, it took New Zealand a bit longer to lift its COVID-19 travel restrictions.

"I wished it had happened earlier, but it's happened now," a passenger, who reunited with her father in New Zealand after 15 months, told The Associated Press on Monday. "I just wanted to get on that first flight because you never know, it may go south. Let's hope it sticks around."

There are still a few rules in place for travel as both countries attempt to maintain control over the spread of COVID-19. Travelers cannot have tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of travel or have any flu-like symptoms at the time of their trip. They must also have spent the 14 days before their trip in either New Zealand or Australia. Masks are required on flights and random temperature checks will be imposed.

Once in New Zealand, Aussies will be required to download the NZ COVID Tracer app and provide detailed contact information for their stay. They must also agree to adapt to new rules and immediate lockdown if a COVID-19 case is detected in the country.

Australia began welcoming New Zealand arrivals into most states in October, although the bubble was temporarily closed in January after detection of a COVID-19 case. New Zealand has been closed to international arrivals since March 2020.

New Zealand has reported a total of 2,596 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths, one of the lowest infection rates in the world. Australia reported more than 29,500 cases and 910 deaths over the past 15 months, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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