First no-quarantine flights from NZ arrive in Australia as cases dip

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SYDNEY • Hundreds of New Zealand plane passengers started arriving in Sydney yesterday as part of a new trans-Tasman travel bubble amid a rapidly falling growth rate in cases at the epicentre of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak.

In a tentative reopening to international tourism, travellers on the approved flights will not be required to quarantine in Sydney, the authorities said.

The arrangements, however, are not yet reciprocal, with New Zealand requiring arrivals to be quarantined for two weeks under supervision at a cost of NZ$3,100 (S$2,780) for the first person and more for additional family members.

Around 90 per cent of those travelling yesterday with Air New Zealand were booked to travel one way, the airline said.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she hoped New Zealand would loosen restrictions on people arriving from Australia soon.

“It is an important first step in bringing back international travel, and we hope that Prime Minister (Jacinda) Ardern returns the favour in the near future,” said Ms Berejiklian, referring to the New Zealand leader.

There was one new case of community transmission in New South Wales in the past 24 hours, Ms Berejiklian said, while adding that she would like to announce a further easing of restrictions next week if the case count remains low.

While Australia has endured a second wave of infections, the case load is modest compared with outbreaks in much of Europe and North America. With the exception of those living in the south-eastern state of Victoria, most people in Australia are subject to only modest pandemic restrictions, with limits on gatherings the main disruption.

In Victoria, the epicentre of the second wave of infections in Australia, the authorities recorded just two new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily increase since early June.

Victoria, and in particular the state capital Melbourne, have endured months of strict lockdown measures, although Premier Daniel Andrews is due to announce plans to ease some restrictions tomorrow.

Mr Andrews said yesterday that the state was “well-placed to take significant steps” to ease restrictions, but added that the next move out of lockdown would still be relatively conservative, highlighting the need to keep social distancing measures in place to avoid another outbreak.

Australia was beginning to relax virus restrictions in June when a bungled hotel quarantine system in Melbourne leaked coronavirus into the community, sparking a second wave which infected thousands and killed more than 800.

Travellers from New Zealand on “no-quarantine” flights will be able to go to New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory without having to undergo quarantine upon arrival, the authorities said.

The states of Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have either closed borders or limited entry which can include quarantine periods, while Victorians are heavily restricted in where they can travel.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced yesterday an expansion of a quarantine hub in the country’s north to allow more Australians stranded overseas to return home.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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