New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she plans to initiate a two-way travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021. Under the one-way travel bubble launched in October, travellers departing New Zealand are exempt from Australia’s 14-day quarantine, but not vice versa.

Australia has seen higher rates of Covid-19 compared to its neighbour, although case numbers have plummeted in recent weeks. The announcement comes nearly a year after the countries sealed their borders to foreign nationals.

Arden said a launch date will be announced early next year once “remaining details are locked down”. This includes aspects such as managing flight crew, according to Reuters.

Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for Health, commented:

“We welcome the advice from New Zealand — it’s the second half of the equation. We consciously opened up Australia to people coming from New Zealand because their case numbers were negligible, and we knew there would come a time when our case numbers would give them confidence.

“Families can be back together in both directions, friends can be back together in both directions, and flights can be full in both directions — which is good for the economy, good for our airlines, and good for both countries.”

The reopening will give a further boost to Air New Zealand and Qantas, which have seen demand tick up as the pandemic comes back under control domestically.