Families and friends met again with hugs and tears this Monday after the first flights of the “bubble” that allows unrestricted travel between Australia and New Zealand, after almost 400 days of border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The phrases “WELCOME WHANAU” (Welcome to the family, in Maori), were written in giant letters on a slope of an airport runway in Wellington, the New Zealand capital.
“It is a great day for families and their friends,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who welcomed the effective policy against coronavirus in the two countries.
The agreement allows passengers to fly between Australia and New Zealand without the need for a mandatory quarantine upon arrival at your destination.
For Lorraine Wratt, a New Zealander blocked by the pandemic when she was with her family in Australia, it is “fantastic” to be able to travel again.
“We are happy to return home, but we will miss our family (in Australia) very much”, assured.
“We came to Australia to spend Christmas with our children. We had planned to return in February, but it was a nightmare.”
Before the pandemic, Australians accounted for 40% of foreign tourists visiting New Zealand, about 1.5 million arrivals in 2019.
In turn, hundreds of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders live in Australia and, before coronavirus, many took a regular flight to return to the archipelago. The journey takes three hours.
“It is like a single great country, so it is very good to open the borders. Will help all families“Mehat El Masri told AFP that she was waiting to be reunited after 16 months with her son Shady, who lives in Sydney.
The bubble, which was put into practice after months of negotiations between these neighbors who have largely managed to control the covid-19 pandemic, was hailed as an important milestone to reestablish a global aeronautical industry very affected by the coronavirus.
Air New Zeland CEO Greg Foran called the day “historic” for people working in the heavily hit tourism sector.
“It is a real game changer for the airline. It is the first day of our rebirth “he declared.
Craig Suckling, a chief executive of the company, called the atmosphere before the Sydney airport departure “electrifying.” “It was a real emotional lift,” he confessed.
A family reunites after the arrival of the first flight from Sydney to New Zealand.
Australia indicated that it is studying the possibility of enabling other bubbles to travel with Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan On its side, New Zealand is working to allow unrestricted access to the inhabitants of small Pacific states, such as the Cook Islands or Tuvalu .
But the leaders of both countries warned that introducing more changes to the border closures decreed when the pandemic broke out will be a slow process.
“The idea that just one day everything will open is not what is going to happen,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“It will be done with care and prudence, working hard on health and medical protection,” he added.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.