Australia Y New Zealand inaugurated this Monday an expected travel bubble, which unites them for the first time after more than a year, due to the pandemic of coronavirus.
As the passengers walked in a daze through the gates of Wellington Airport (New Zealand), one after another they were greeted with hugs by family members who rushed forward and collapsed in tears.
Euphoria and relief marked the opening of a long-awaited travel bubble between the two countries. Boys held balloons and banners, and indigenous Maori artists welcomed them home with songs.
The start of free travel was a long time coming for families who have been separated by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as struggling tour operators. It marked the first tentative steps towards what both countries hope will become a gradual reopening to the rest of the world.
The boys held balloons and banners to greet the travelers. Photo: AP
Danny Mather was surprised to see his pregnant daughter Kristy and baby grandson for the first time in 15 months. They flew in from Sydney for a visit on the first flight after the bubble opened. What did they say to each other?
“Nothing,” he said, laughing. They just hugged. “It is so good to see her and I am so happy to have her back.”
Kristy Mather said it was overwhelming to be able to reunite with her family and that it was amazing that the bubble had opened.
“I wish it had happened earlier, but it happened now,” he said. “I just wanted to take that first flight because you never know.”
The Mather just arrived from Sydney. Photo: AP
The idea of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand had been talked about for months, but faced setbacks due to several small virus outbreaks in both countries, which were eventually eliminated.
To mark the occasion, Wellington Airport painted a huge welcome sign near its main runway and Air New Zealand ordered some 24,000 bottles of sparkling wine, offering a complimentary glass to adult passengers.
From two to 30 daily flights
Air New Zealand’s chief operating officer Carrie Hurihanganui said the airline had previously been running only two to three flights per day between the two countries, but that increased to 30 flights on Monday with 5,200 passengers.
He said the day marked a turning point and people were excited.
A family is reunited in New Zealand. Photo: AP
“You can feel it at the airport and see it on people’s faces,” he said.
The leaders of both countries welcomed the bubble and said it was a world’s leading deal because it was aimed at opening borders and preventing the virus from spreading.
“Today’s milestone is beneficial to Australians and New Zealanders, boosting our economies and keeping our people safe,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country was welcoming the newcomers.
Families meet again at Wellington airport. Photo: EFE
“The bubble marks a significant step in the reconnection of both countries with the world and it is something that we should all take a moment to be very proud of,” he said.
Travelers who lined up at Sydney and Melbourne airports early Monday said they were excited or relieved to finally fly to New Zealand after more than a year. Some visited family and friends, while others attended funerals.
Both countries have managed to keep the virus out by placing barriers to the world abroad, including strict quarantine requirements for travelers returning from other countries where the virus is rampant.
“They did very well with the precautions and everything, better than everyone else. Anywhere else you can’t go anywhere safely, ”said Ameera Elmasry, who was at Wellington airport to greet her son Shady Osman, a doctor she had not seen. in 16 months. “It is very good what happened now.”
Australia had previously allowed New Zealanders to arrive without going into quarantine, but New Zealand had taken a more cautious approach, requiring that travelers from Australia they will complete a quarantine.
The start of the bubble comes before the New Zealand ski season and is good news for many resort towns, including the Queenstown Ski Resort.
Nick Perry, Associated Press
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