The emotion was strong Monday among the passengers who were preparing to embark on the first flights of the “bubble”, a measure allowing to travel between Australia and New Zealand without having to carry out quarantine on arrival.
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This device will allow families separated since the border was closed almost 400 days ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to finally reunite.
“(I’m going to) scream, scream, cry, hug, kiss, (me) feel happy – all of this at the same time,” Denise O’Donoghue, 63, told AFP at the then Sydney airport. that she was about to embark.
“It’s a great day for families and their friends,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, praising the effective policy in the fight against the coronavirus, in both countries, which allowed the opening of this corridor .
Before the pandemic, Australians made up the largest proportion of foreign tourists, 40%, visiting New Zealand, with around 1.5 million arrivals in 2019.
This event was the subject of extensive media coverage in both countries on Monday, with many direct televisions from airports.
The words “WELCOME WHANAU”, welcome family in the Maori language, were written in giant letters on an embankment near a runway at Wellington Airport.
For Lorraine Wratt, a New Zealander stranded by the pandemic while she was with her family in Australia, it is “great” to be able to travel again.
“We are very happy to be coming home, but our family (in Australia) will be sorely missed,” she said.
“We arrived in Australia on December 11 to spend Christmas with our children … we had planned to return in February, it was a bit of a nightmare.”
Hundreds of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders live in Australia and, before the coronavirus, many regularly flew back to the archipelago. The journey takes three hours.
Mme O’Donoghue had the feeling Monday of a return to normal life, “I will go back, they will come”.
Craig Suckling, an executive at Air New Zealand, called the pre-departure atmosphere at Sydney Airport “electric”.
“It was a real emotional lift,” he said.
The airline’s chief executive, Greg Foran, called the day “historic” for those working in the hard hit tourism industry.
“(This is) a real turning point for the airline. This is the first day of our rebirth, ”he said.