Australia and New Zealand's quarantine-free travel bubble has officially launched
- A quarantine-free travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand launched on Monday.
- It allows quarantine-free travel between the two countries, provided they both keep their Covid-19 outbreaks under control.
- Photos and videos of their first arrivals showed emotional reunions between family and friends.
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Australia and New Zealand's travel bubble has officially launched.
Starting Monday, residents can travel between the two countries without a mandatory quarantine. They will still be required to wear face masks on the flight and follow coronavirus rules on the ground.
"It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia. Be it returning family, friends or holiday-makers, New Zealand says, 'Welcome and enjoy yourself,'" New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a joint statement with Australia's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
The travelers on the first flight to land in Auckland arrived to a joyous and emotional scene.
According to the Guardian journalist Michael McGowan, who was on board the first flight of the bubble to land in Auckland, the first arrivals were met by crowds of people waiting to greet their loved ones, cameras everywhere, and an acoustic band singing "welcome home, welcome home, welcome home." The emotional reunions were "genuinely very touching," McGowan wrote.
At Sydney's international airport, a group of drag queens with gold balloons and signs welcomed Kiwis to Australia, according to Reuters photos.
Both Australia's and New Zealand's borders are still closed to tourists from all other countries. In both countries, returning citizens and permanent residents must undergo a pre-departure Covid-19 test and a 14-day quarantine.
Qantas Airways said it will fly about 200 flights per week between the two countries as part of the bubble, and Air New Zealand said it will operate about 30 flights per day from Auckland to Australia.
Ardern announced the travel bubble in a press conference two weeks ago while also warning the bubble would be "flyer beware," meaning New Zealand would not assist any travelers who get stuck if either country reimposes a lockdown.
The travel bubble hinges on both countries keeping the virus at bay. If a case is detected that either country believes is not easily contained, the bubble will be suspended, Ardern said during the announcement. If either country reports multiple cases, flights between the two countries will stop.
Both countries' borders have been essentially closed to non-residents for over a year, and both have kept their Covid-19 outbreaks under control. New Zealand has reported a total of 2,239 cases and 26 deaths, and Australia has reported 29,505 cases and 910 deaths.
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