The largest countries of Oceania were incredibly successful in controlling and eliminating the threat of the novel coronavirus and both New Zealand and Australia brought community infection rates down to zero. Although many smaller remote island nations were able to remain virus-free for a considerable time, the first cases have recently been reported in Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands. French Polynesia, which reopened for tourism in July, has been hit hardest by the disease and has one of the highest infection rates among the smaller Pacific Islands.
New Zealand and Australia have discussed a trans-Tasman bubble for travelers wanting to fly between the two countries, but right now the bubble only works one-way with New Zealand travelers allowed to skip quarantine in certain Australian states. Some Pacific islands, like Fiji and the Cook Islands, have also expressed interest in participating in the bubble and reopening for tourism strictly from Australia and New Zealand. After Australia's most recent outbreak, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned the bubble between the two countries is unlikely to open before the end of the year but hopes to soon have an agreement with the Cook Islands.
Here’s what you need to know about current border regulations in Oceania.
Australia has banned entry for all non-citizens and non-residents, including U.S. citizens unless they qualify for an exemption or have been in New Zealand for the previous 14 days. There are also measures in place to limit the spread of the virus across borders in Australia and everyone traveling across territory lines must partake in a 14-day government-mandated quarantine at their own expense.
On May 8, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-phase plan for reopening Australia’s economy by July. Despite beginning with a unified plan, lockdown restrictions varied widely by the state in regards to mask-wearing, gatherings, and how many people are allowed in restaurants.
In October, the state of Victoria ended its lockdown after 111 days, and shops and restaurants were allowed to reopen. However, residents are still restricted from traveling more than 16 miles from their home. After nine consecutive days without a new case in the whole country, an emerging cluster in mid-November forced the state of South Australia to go back into a shutdown that eventually lifted earlier than expected. As of November, restrictions are starting to ease and borders between the states are reopening.
In October, New Zealand eliminated the virus for the second time, and all restrictions in Auckland, and the rest of the country, were lifted. However, in early November, the virus reemerged in Auckland and the city was partially shut down. Although case numbers have gone up slightly in December, these infections originate from inbound travelers.
The New Zealand government is only allowing citizens, permanent residents, and residents who meet travel criteria to enter the country. Other travelers, including essential health workers and partners of New Zealand citizens and residents, must be granted permission to enter. All travelers arriving in New Zealand, even if they are New Zealand citizens returning from Australia, are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated quarantine or managed isolation facility.
For the most part, island nations in the Pacific had been largely unaffected by the coronavirus thanks to their remoteness and strict lockdown measures. However, with so much of the economies in these countries dependent on tourism, many were eager to reopen and those that have reopened have experienced high infection rates. While Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Tonga, and Tuvalu are still restricting U.S. citizens from entering or requiring at least a 14-day self-quarantine, French Polynesia, home of the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, was the first Pacific nation to open its borders on July 15.
Travelers arriving in French Polynesia will have to show a negative test taken within three days of their departure and will be required to take another test upon arrival, but there is no requirement to quarantine. Since the reopening, infection rates and deaths have risen and more measures were introduced to enforce social distancing such as banning gatherings and enforcing mask-wearing.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Australia. "COVID-19 Information." November 30, 2020.
Australian Government Department of Health. "3-Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia." June 26, 2020
New Zealand Immigration. “Border closures and exceptions.”
New Zealand Immigration. “COVID-19: Key updates.” November 6, 2020.
U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu. "COVID-19 Information." August 25, 2020.