Australia, New Zealand, and their Pacific Island neighbors have been incredibly successful in controlling and eliminating the threat of the novel coronavirus. New Zealand has all but eliminated the virus and Australia’s infection rate continues to drop. While it might be tempting to hop on a plane to go trekking in New Zealand or lounge on one of Sydney’s famous beaches, the region has enacted strict border controls aimed at protecting its residents. Here’s what you need to know.
On May 8, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-phase plan for reopening Australia’s economy by July. There are no deadlines for each stage to begin, and states and territories will individually decide when they’re able to progress from one stage to the next based on the local circumstances.
The first phase focuses on allowing social connections with friends and family, as well as reopening some businesses. Under the first phase, the following will be permitted: non-work gatherings of up to 10 people, retail stores to open with “COVIDSafe” plans in place; restaurants and cafes to open with up to 10 customers at a time and social distancing, and hotels and hostels can reopen. Residents can also travel locally and regionally for leisure purposes, but most attractions such as theaters, venues, zoos, bars, and nightclubs remain closed. Under the second phase, more businesses can open and restaurants and shops can allow a larger capacity, and businesses such as museums, galleries, theaters, and zoos can open at limited capacity, and campgrounds can open. Interstate travel is considered under phase two and is more likely in phase three.
A “trans-Tasman” bubble has been suggested, which would allow residents of Australia and New Zealand to travel to the other country, but no official date or announcement has been made for that to happen as of mid-May.
The New Zealand border is currently allowing essential travel only. Citizens, permanent residents, and residents who meet travel criteria may enter the country without permission; other travelers, including essential health workers and partners of NZ citizens and residents, must be granted permission. As of April 9, all travelers are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated quarantine or managed isolation facility. As of early June, New Zealand had eliminated the virus and lifted all social and economic restrictions, except for border controls.
New Zealand and Australia are currently discussing a trans-Tasman bubble for travelers wanting to fly between the two countries, but no official dates for doing so have been announced.
The Pacific Islands have been largely unaffected by the coronavirus thanks to the region’s remoteness and strict lockdown measures. French Polynesia, home to Bora Bora and Tahiti, is planning to open borders on July 15. Arrivals must pas a COVID-19 test three days before entering the country and be willing to take another test four days after landing. However, there are currently minimal flights to the region.