New Zealand Starts Travel Bubble But Not With Australia

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party maintains a healthy lead in opinion polls ahead of New Zealand's election in September
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's party maintains a healthy lead in opinion polls ahead of New Zealand's election in September AFP / Marty MELVILLE

Another bad news for Australia. New Zealand is holding off its plans to start a travel bubble with the country as its coronavirus cases continue to soar.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has confirmed that the country will not be opening its borders to Australia just yet. Instead, it is prioritizing travel within Realm countries. First on its list is the Cook Islands.

With a population of just 15,000, Cook Islands is among very few countries without a recorded COVID-19 case.

“It’s clear to us that opening up with Realm countries, keeping in mind they are New Zealand passport holders, will come before any opening up with Australia,” Ardern told Newshub, News.com.au reported.

It was reported in May that Australia and New Zealand were discussing the possibility of a trans-Tasman travel bubble as early as July 1. At that time, John Hart, the chairman of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said it will be ready for passengers to fly to and from New Zealand.

However, the country has been plagued by a resurgence in coronavirus cases. On Friday, Victoria recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic started in March. It tallied seven deaths overnight, bringing the state’s death toll to 56. Australia has 140 total deaths.

As of Friday, 5:34 p.m. AEST, the country has 13,595 total COVID-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ardern has already confirmed NZ airports are already preparing the logistics for incoming travelers.

“(Officials are) working with the airlines. That’s going to take several weeks. Then we’ll get a report back on exact dates when we’ll be able to start the rollout of the reopening,” the prime minister added. Ardern, however, did not comment on when the AU-NZ travel bubble will commence.

According to the New Zealand Health Department, there are 1,206 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and 22 deaths. Of this number, only 21 are active cases.

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