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. Over the summer, New Zealand celebrated 24 straight days with no new cases until the virus returned in August. By October 7, New Zealand's government announced that the virus has been eliminated again. On the other hand, Australia is recovering 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. And while many small nations in the Pacific have had an easier time controlling the virus, only French Polynesia is welcoming back tourists.
New Zealand and Australia have discussed a trans-Tasman bubble for travelers wanting to fly between the two countries, but right now only one-way flights from New Zealand to Australia are being operated. Travelers arriving in Australia from New Zealand will not need to quarantine. 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, but the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told people "not to get their hopes up."
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. 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. However, despite beginning with a unified plan, lockdown restrictions vary widely by the state in regards to mask-wearing, gatherings, and how many people are allowed in restaurants.
In October, New Zealand eliminated the virus for the second time, and all restrictions in Auckland, and the rest of the country, have been lifted. The New Zealand government is only allowing citizens, permanent residents, and residents who meet travel criteria may enter the country. Other travelers, including essential health workers and partners of New Zealand citizens and residents, must be granted permission to enter. As of April 9, all travelers arriving in New Zealand are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated quarantine or managed isolation facility.
Island nations in the Pacific have been largely unaffected by the coronavirus thanks to their remoteness and strict lockdown measures. While Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Tonga, and Tuvalu are still restricting U.S. citizens from entering or requiring 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 have risen and more measures were introduced to enforce social distancing such as banning gatherings and enforcing mask-wearing. However, as of October 15, the border remains open and mandatory quarantines are not being enforced.
The New York Times. "New Zealand Stamps Out the Virus. For a Second Time." October 7, 2020.
Financial Review. "One-Way Trans-Tasman Bubble Flops Before Wheels Up." October 15, 2020.
9 News. "PM warns Aussies not to get hopes up about travel bubble with other countries." October 12, 2020.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Australia. "COVID-19 Information." October 9, 2020.
Australian Government Department of Health. “3-Step Framework for a COVIDSafe Australia.” June 26, 2020
The Guardian. "Australia's State by State Coronavirus Lockdown Rules and Restrictions Explained." October 11, 2020.
NPR. "New Zealand Declares Victory Over Coronavirus Again, Lifts Auckland Restrictions." October 7, 2020.
New Zealand Immigration. “Border closures and exceptions.”
New Zealand Immigration. “COVID-19: Key updates.”
U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu. "COVID-19 Information." August 25, 2020.
Radio New Zealand. "French Polynesia Records Another 47 Covid-19 Cases." September 19, 2020.