Australia and New Zealand have launched a ‘travel bubble.’ That means citizens of either country are permitted to travel to the other, and then return home without a government-enforced quarantine. There is three times as much travel going from Australia to New Zealand as there is the other way around.
A reader asks why this is considered “lopsided” in media reports when there are 5 times as many people in Australia as there are in New Zealand?
What strikes me as interesting here is the claim that travel was roughly equal on each side of the transman bubble prior to the pandemic. You’d expect flights to be equally full on average, as people going also return home, but the suggestion is that as many New Zealanders used to travel to Australia as vice-versa despite having a population just one-fifth the size.
In addition to there being more New Zealanders living in Australia, looking to visit their home country, I’d point out that New Zealanders have been legally permitted to leave their country while Australians have had to seek special permission to do so and there are only a limited set of acceptable reasons.
New Zealand does require a stay in government quarantine on return, but there hasn’t been a blanket ban on foreign travel which Australians have faced. Australia has even had shifting restrictions on domestic travel across states, though often people living in a border zone between states have been able to obtain passes that allow them to travel back-and-forth (such as those on the Queensland-New South Wales border).
So it’s not surprising that a relatively large number of Australians would take advantage of finally being permitted to travel. Indeed, some Australians are using the opportunity to travel to New Zealand as a way of flying beyond that country.
- Australians can leave the country and go to New Zealand
- Once in New Zealand there are no restrictions on where they can fly
- And then they can return home to Australia from a third country
Of course in order to return home they need to secure a flight and Australia is only accepting 6000 passengers a week because of limits on government-run quarantine facilities. The country’s Prime Minister is ‘hopeful’ of offering home quarantine during the second half of the year, though this may vary by state. And of course there’s risk not just of being able to get home due to quarantine limits, but that rules can change while they’re gone.
It’s hard to overstate how trying these rules have been. Personally as an American I’ve been unable to visit my family in Australia, and I have two new members of the family I’ve been unable to meet. In my family there’s a new grandmother who hasn’t been able to see her daughter in over a year or meet her granddaughter.
Restrictions have meant that during a portion of the pandemic my family in Sydney has had to drive 9 hours rather than fly to see family at the northern end of the state because available flights have been to airports across the state border. When travel between states has been permitted, there’s been risk of border closers from even a single locally acquired case of Covid-19.