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New Zealand to announce date for quarantine-free travel with Australia in 2 weeks: PM Ardern

New Zealand to announce date for quarantine-free travel with Australia in 2 weeks: PM Ardern

Passengers arrive from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened overnight, following an extended border closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, on Oct 16, 2020. (File photo: REUTERS/Loren Elliott)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday (Mar 22) said she will announce a date for quarantine-free travel with Australia on Apr 6.

"We don't have a date for you," Ardern said in a news conference.

Ardern said more time was needed to set up the final framework of an agreement and determine arrangements such as contact tracing measures and managed isolation facilities. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier indicated that such an arrangement may only be with some Australian states.

Ardern told state broadcaster TVNZ in an interview that initial country-to-country negotiations had turned to state-by-state discussions as the process was taking too long.

"We’ve said: ‘Look, let's just move state-by-state’ because it’s actually just taking a bit too much work, a bit too difficult,” Ardern said.

“Let’s just operate as Australia has been operating with us. That’s helping to speed things up.”

Australia's border has been mostly open to neighbouring New Zealanders since last October, with a few short suspensions when there were small coronavirus outbreaks in Auckland. But New Zealand has delayed returning the favour amid more frequent bursts of COVID-19 clusters across Australia.

READ: Will air travel bubbles take off or burst? Don't pack your bags yet, experts say

Pressure has been mounting on Ardern's government to allow Australians entry as the country's tourism sector struggles without international visitors. The opposition National Party is calling for quarantine-free travel with Australia to start immediately.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this month that a two-way travel arrangement was in New Zealand's hands. 

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Source: Reuters/lk

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