New Zealand will aim to fully reopen its borders with Australia from early 2021, with the nation’s Cabinet agreeing in principle to the next phase of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Stuff reports that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the commitment today, saying we’re one step closer to quarantine-free travel between both nations.

The NZ Government hopes to name a precise date “in the New Year, once remaining details are locked down,” Ardern said during a press conference.

Ardern said the travel arrangement now rests on two crucial factors. First, the Australian Government needs to sign off on the agreement, which seems pretty bloody likely at this point.

Secondly, and most importantly, any quarantine-free travel arrangement will rely on coronavirus case numbers — which caused the suspension of international travel earlier this year — remaining under relative control in both countries.

The first stage of the trans-Tasman bubble was introduced in October, with Kiwis permitted to travel to several Australian states without first undergoing 14 days of quarantine.

That’s only a one-way arrangement though, and today’s announcement paves the way for a more reciprocal travel situation.

Ardern added that further work needs to be done before the next stage rolls around.

First, New Zealand will need to form contingency plans for repatriating Kiwis in the event of another large-scale coronavirus outbreak in Australia.

Government officials are also sussing out how to best handle passengers and airline staff travelling between both nations.

In any case, this is extremely good news, after a year which was… not extremely good.

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