Covid 19 coronavirus: New Zealand’s Australia transtasman bubble travel protocols not tough enough – traveller

A recent traveller returning from Melbourne was left disappointed and concerned with the gap in Covid-19 protocols between Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian woman, who has moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi partner, flew from Christchurch to Melbourne for a three-day visit to see her dog.

She told the Herald when she booked her flight to Australia, she was told to make sure she met all requirements and was required to fill out a “rigorous” travel document.

She was required to enter her contact details in New Zealand as well as details for her time spent in Australia.

Back-up contact details were also required as well as an email address, flight number and the exact location she would be staying.

The form was reviewed by the Australian government and required to be approved. Only then was she given a unique QR code to scan at the airport that allowed her to board a plane and travel to Australia.

That was in stark contrast to the minimal expectations required to travel back into New Zealand, she said.

All she needed to do was go through Customs and fill out an arrival card, which only asked for contact details in New Zealand.

“It’s concerning because if you don’t have access to a cellular network or something like that while you’re here [in New Zealand], they’re going to struggle to find you.”

A Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Covid-19 spokesperson said travellers coming to New Zealand under quarantine-free travel were required to fill in a Travel Declaration.

Passengers also need to answer a series of health-related questions at their airline check-in kiosk in Australia. There was also an inflight message, giving guidance around New Zealand’s Covid-19 settings, that must be read aloud by airlines to passenger upon arrival to New Zealand.

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A brochure was required to be given to all inbound travellers by the airlines with information about positive Covid-19 health precautions.

“At the airport, airport companies have been required to make available contact tracing booklets for travellers who are not using smart phones, so these travellers can manually record the places they visit,” the spokesperson said.

Health professionals are stationed at New Zealand’s international airports to undertake random temperature checks and health assessments of travellers.

The Australian woman told the Herald she did have to fill out the health declaration during check-in and the questions were mostly around whether she had any Covid-19 symptoms.

“It was probably as easy as travelling from Melbourne to Sydney or Christchurch to Auckland.

“The only difference was I had to scan my passport.”

Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Victoria was put on holdas the number of active cases in the state on Friday grew to 30.

The woman said she also noticed a big difference in the rules around face masks between New Zealand and Australia.

At Christchurch Airport, she was only required to wear a face mask once she went through the boarding gate to get on the plane.

A DPMC spokesperson said people must wear a face covering on domestic flights and while airside at international airports coming in from overseas.

“For international arrivals, this is until they go through Customs.”

But at the airport in Melbourne, everyone must wear a face mask from the minute they stepped inside the building, she said.

The woman said the whole experience had left her feeling unconfident about New Zealand’s ability to manage a Covid-19 outbreak from within the Transtasman bubble.

“It didn’t fill me with confidence that if there was an outbreak, New Zealand would be able to get on top of it

“I feel like I was confident everyone arriving in Australia had all the checks and balances, but coming back, I felt like it was a bit of an amateur hour, as if Covid-19 didn’t exist.”

The DPMC spokesperson said they had established systems for dealing with cases when they arose, which had been successful in containing previous cases and outbreaks.

“Quarantine Free Travel Resurgence planning means we are confident in our ability to manage an outbreak.”

They said a strong focus of developing a quarantine-free arrangement with Australia was to establish clear processes between agencies in New Zealand and their counterparts in Australia.

“In the end, we have achieved that without the need for a formal joint arrangement.

“There are a number of agreed protocols such as the separation of passengers and crew from green and red flights. However, as each country determines their own rules and responses to Covid-19, we recognise there will be some differences.”

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