Australian travellers who are planning on using the travel bubble to New Zealand as a gateway to other foreign countries will risk massive fines and even jail time.
As quarantine-free flights resumed between New Zealand and Australia on Monday, news of a ‘loophole’ emerged which could give Australians easier access to other international destinations.
Australians have been banned from leaving the country under strict Covid restrictions unless the traveller has an exemption.
But Australia’s travel ban is not enforced by New Zealand - meaning Aussies can technically treat our neighbours across the ditch as a stepping stone to other foreign countries.
To stop unnecessary travel, Health Minister Greg Hunt signed off on a new amendment to the Australian Government’s Biosecurity Legislation (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential).
The change, which came into effect on Monday, bans Australian citizens and residents from travelling to foreign countries beyond New Zealand unless they have an exemption for a compassionate reason or because the individual required urgent medical treatment that was not reasonably available in New Zealand or Australia.
Compassionate reasons include the death or serious illness of a close family member.
Those who break the rules “may contravene a civil penalty provision”, the document says.
Section 46 of the Biosecurity Act states those who fail to comply with certain entry and exit requirements could face a minimum penalty of $6300.
The Australian Parliament website, however, lists a much harsher punishment for people who intentionally disobey requirements, with rule flouters facing up to five years’ jail and $63,000.
Bubble remains open despite NZ airport worker testing positive to Covid
Australian health authorities are "watching New Zealand" but the trans-Tasman bubble is yet to pop from a new community Covid case in Auckland.
New Zealand's Ministry of Health announced the new case on Tuesday afternoon (NZST), just a day after New Zealand dropped quarantine requirements for Australian travellers.
There is a clear link to a possible infection source: the person cleans planes that have taken "red zone" flights from high-risk countries,
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the new case shouldn't impact trans-Tasman travel arrangements.
"These are the kind of scenarios where we would anticipate movement continuing," she said.
"Our Minister of Health has kept in touch with his counterpart. They're directly communicating and so are our officials."
- with AAP
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