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New Zealand will allow Australians to visit quarantine-free beginning April 19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday, establishing a two-way “travel bubble” for the neighbouring countries that have closed their borders to the rest of the world in order to eliminate COVID-19.

Airlines from both countries have said that once the agreement is in place, they plan to increase flight capacity.

Despite the fact that most Australian states have permitted New Zealanders to visit without quarantine for months, New Zealand has maintained its mandatory quarantine, citing concerns about small COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation.

In both nations, the virus has been largely eradicated, with occasional outbreaks occurring as a result of contamination from quarantined returning travelers.

“The Trans-Tasman travel bubble represents a start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard at,” Ardern told reporters in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

“That makes New Zealand and Australia relatively unique. I know family, friends and significant parts of our economy will welcome it, as I know I certainly do.

“I cannot see or point to any countries in the world that are maintaining a strategy of keeping their countries completely COVID-free whilst opening up to international travel between each other, that means that in a way we are world-leading, that’s something I think both countries should be proud of and I think we’re doing it at exactly the right time.”

Other countries in the region have announced proposals for special travel zones, but the New Zealand-Australia agreement is one of the first to avoid COVID-19 testing.

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According to 2018 estimates, 568,000 New Zealand-born people live in Australia, accounting for 2.3 percent of the population and the country’s fourth-largest migrant group. According to New Zealand details, trade between the two countries is worth $18.06 billion, making Australia New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

Since the pandemic started, Australia has had approximately 29,400 COVID-19 cases and 909 deaths, whereas New Zealand has had just over 2,100 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.

Source: ALJAZEERA

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