The first flight as part of Australia’s one-way travel bubble with New Zealand arrived in Sydney on Friday, with around 200 passengers allowed to enter the country quarantine-free.
It is the first time since March 29 that international travellers have not been required to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Under the first phase of the “safe travel zone” arrangement, visitors from New Zealand can fly into New South Wales and the Northern Territory, with other states and territories expected to be added at a later date.
Currently the trans-Tasman bubble is a one-way street, with Australians and returning travellers still required to quarantine in New Zealand.
Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said that 90 per cent of the passengers on the first flight that touched down in Sydney at 12:20 pm (0120 GMT) had booked a one-way ticket.
“It’s been a huge undertaking to ensure we are ready for this one-way arrangement. We know passengers onboard may have been waiting a long time to get back to New South Wales,” Foran said.
Two more quarantine-free flights will arrive in Sydney from Auckland later in the day. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday said that after New Zealand, the government was looking to establish travel bubbles with the Pacific region, as well as Japan, South Korea and Singapore. However, it was unlikely to happen until next year.
The government has also warned that travel to Europe and the United States may not be an option until 2022, unless an effective Covid-19 vaccine is developed.
On Friday, New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, recorded five new coronavirus infections, only one of which was locally transmitted.
Meanwhile Victoria, which has had its capital city Melbourne under a strict lockdown since August 2, recorded two new coronavirus cases and zero deaths – the lowest daily case count since June 9. The state’s death toll remains at 816 and the national figure stands at 904.
Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews is expected to announce “significant steps” towards easing restrictions on Sunday, including possibly expanding the 5-kilometre travel limit to 20 kilometres.
Andrews has been coming under increasing pressure from the federal government to lift the state’s lockdown, which has been among the toughest in the world.
The lockdown was imposed on the 4.9 million residents across metropolitan Melbourne when the count of new daily cases was topping 700.