Emotions intensified on Monday as excited passengers departed on their first flights between Australia and New Zealand as part of the quarantine-free COVID-19 “travel bubble”, allowing families to suffer from quarantine. The split pandemic has long been reunited.
“(I would) scream, scream, cry, hug, kiss, (feel) happy – all these emotions at once,” Denise O’Donoghue, 63, told AFP news agency at the pitch Sydney as she prepares to board her flight
This arrangement means that passengers can take a three-hour flight across the Tasman Sea without having to complete the required COVID-19 quarantine once they arrive.
The TV footage showed emotional airport scenes with reunited families and dozens of passengers crowded at international departure terminals at Australian airports.
“This is the first time in 400 days that people can travel without quarantine and we are adding 16 round-trip flights a day to New Zealand, and these flights are full,” Director Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.
Qantas will increase flights between countries to around 200 flights per week, while Air New Zealand said it quadrupled its flights to 30 on Monday, with its planes flying to New Zealand with capacity 97%.
“It was really fun to kick off this quarantine tour with Australia. Whether returning to family, friends or vacationers, New Zealand says: ‘Welcome and enjoy yourself,’ says New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hope for the normal
Australia was New Zealand’s largest source of international tourists before the pandemic, accounting for about 1.5 million or 40% of total arrivals in 2019.
The border opening has received saturated coverage from the media in both countries, with live television reports from airports providing regular updates on the progress of flights. .
On a grassy embankment at the foot of Wellington Airport’s runway, the words “WELCOME WHANAU” (family) are written in giant letters.
Lorraine Wratt, a New Zealander trapped in the pandemic while visiting family in Australia, told AFP it was “great” to be able to travel again.
“We are very excited to be home but we will miss our family (in Australia) very much,” she said.
More than half a million New Zealand-born people live in Australia, just over 2% of Australia’s nearly 26 million population.
Australia and New Zealand have largely closed their borders to noncitizens and permanent residents more than a year ago, helping to keep their COVID-19 numbers relatively low compared to some. other developed countries.
Other international visitors to both countries have to undergo a two-week hotel quarantine process at self-sufficient expense.
Australia has recorded just over 29,500 viral infections and 910 deaths since the pandemic began, while New Zealand has about 2,200 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.
Ardern and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison have warned travelers to prepare for short-term disruption of travel arrangements in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, while also reporting the risks of travel. No quarantine will be “under constant review”.
However, O’Donoghue said the opening of the travel bubble made her feel the world was returning to normal.
“I’ll be back, they’ll come, we’ll be back to normal,” she said.
“What would normally be like from now on I don’t know, but I’m really, really excited today.”