Australia, New Zealand, and their Pacific Island neighbors were incredibly successful in controlling and eliminating the threat of the novel coronavirus from March to June, but attempts at reopening and returning to normalcy have resulted in a rise in cases. Although New Zealand enjoyed 24 straight days with no new cases in July, the virus returned in August and the country is now averaging less than 10 new cases per day. On the other hand, Australia is coming down from a huge spike in mid-July that forced many parts of the country back into lockdown after a period of relatively low case numbers in May and June. Additionally, while many nations in the Pacific have had an easier time controlling the virus, only French Polynesia is welcoming back tourists. Here’s what you need to know about border regulations in Oceania.
As of August 31, Australia has banned entry for all non-citizens and non-residents, including U.S. citizens unless they qualify for an exemption. 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. 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. 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.
Due to a large spike in cases in July and August, it is still not clear when Australia will move into phase two.
As of early June, New Zealand had eliminated the virus and lifted all social and economic restrictions, except for border controls. However, the emergence of new cases in mid-July caused the whole country to go back into lockdown.
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 New Zealand 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.
New Zealand and Australia have discussed a trans-Tasman bubble for travelers wanting to fly between the two countries, but no official dates for doing so have been announced.
Island nations in the Pacific have been largely unaffected by the coronavirus thanks to their remoteness and strict lockdown measures. While Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga are still restricting U.S. citizens from entering, 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 have risen dramatically and more measures were introduced to enforce social distancing such as banning gatherings and enforcing mask-wearing. However, as of August 31, the border remains open and mandatory quarantines are not being enforced.