New Zealand has announced that it will open a second travel bubble in just two weeks, as non-quarantine travel to the Cook Islands will begin on May 17.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the bubble start date comes at a time when her country is “in a stronger position to prevent, detect and manage the outbreak of COVID-19”.
The Green Travel Zone between the Cooks and New Zealand will allow families to reconnect, resume business deals and revive tourism in The Cooks. All this will provide a boost to the Cook Island economy and help the country recover from the effects of COVID-19.
The island’s tourism authority is hoping to extend the bubble to Australia, but as we wait patiently for the launch of the next lane, all eyes are on the possibility of using the New Zealand deal as a gateway of sorts.
The answer, as always with international travel in the world of COVID, is a bit complicated.
From 17 May, you can travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands without having to go into managed isolation or self-isolation on arrival. This is called travel without quarantine.
Anyone in New Zealand can travel without quarantine to the Cook Islands, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria and immigration requirements.
It does not include non-quarantine travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands in Australia, which means you must spend a full 14 days in New Zealand before you can continue your trip to the Cook Islands or Australia.
In a statement released on news.com.au, New Zealand Customs said standards for travel to the Cook Islands could blow a bubble for any Australian hoping to sneak onto one of the island’s famous beaches.
“This is an internal matter of the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection,” the statement said.
“The New Zealand Customs Service has no role or authority to prevent further departure of Australian nationals to overseas destinations from New Zealand.”
Currently, if an Australian wants to use New Zealand as a gateway to the Cook Islands, they will need to spend 14 days in New Zealand before and after their trip to the Cook Islands.
The idea of a loophole arose when the Morrison government was forced to crack down on Australians hoping to use New Zealand as a gateway to the rest of the world.
Australians now risk imprisonment if they use New Zealand as a back door to visit other countries, as Prime Minister and Health Minister Greg Hunt has stepped up deterrence by amending biosecurity regulations. This means that anyone using New Zealand as a means of traveling abroad will need to provide an acknowledgment that they have left for a compassionate cause or need urgent medical care not available in Australia or New Zealand.
A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force told news.com.au in a statement that non-quarantine travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands “will not include Australia”.
“You have to spend a full 14 days in New Zealand before you can travel to Australia for free in quarantine,” the spokesperson said.
Currently, New Zealand does not prohibit Australian citizens from leaving New Zealand and traveling abroad. Anyone arriving in Australia (except for those who have been in New Zealand for 14 days) must enter quarantine.
“If Australian citizens and permanent residents move through New Zealand to another destination, they must apply for an exemption from overseas travel.”
Those traveling from New Zealand to another international destination “should be aware that returning to Australia or New Zealand may be difficult due to current restrictions on passenger numbers and flight availability,” the spokesperson said.
Passengers traveling from New Zealand to another international destination and then attempting to return to Australia without spending 14 days in New Zealand on the return trip will be required to submit a negative COVID test until 72 hours prior to departure, enter the 14-day mandatory quarantine at the hotel, at their expense when He arrives in Australia and is periodically tested while he is in mandatory quarantine.”