Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The bubble opens

New Zealand and Australia now have a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries, the first time two major countries, both without community transmission of Covid-19, have opened their borders to each other. And the first day was magical to watch.

New Zealanders and Australians—despite rivalries and even disagreements—are closer than probably any other two sovereign countries. Our citizens live and work in each other’s countries freely, without the need for residence or work permits, and used to travel back and forth visa-free. Many people—including me—have family and friends on the other side of the Tasman, but our easy access to each other ended more than a year ago.

The global pandemic closed borders worldwide, and that included the two countries that are more like cousins than rigid nations, New Zealand and Australia. For more than a year, people have been separated with little practical ability to hug each other, even as travel eased somewhat in recent months.

That all changed on Monday when the bubble officially opened.

I watched some of the live feed from TVNZ’s One News, and I kept thinking to myself how much it reminded me of the final scene in the 2003 film Love Actually (a video of the sequence is below). Turns out, of course, lots of people thought the same thing.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talked to the news media about the bubble opening, but was unable to be there. “I just would have loved to have been a bystander, to see those families reunited for the first time,” she said. “I think something like a scene from Love Actually is probably how I anticipate it would look and how it would feel. And I imagine it’s pretty close to it.”

A media scrum surrounding reunited people.
That evening, TVNZ’s Seven Sharp programme reinforced the idea by ending their show with a montage of news footage of arrivals throughout New Zealand, with the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” [also: WATCH/LISTEN]. It was actually quite nice.

I’ve long thought that the arrivals halls of major airports—international arrivals in particular—are among the happiest places on earth because of all the friends and families reunited there with tears, hugs, kisses, smiles, and love. It’s hard not to tear up watching it all.

We can’t know for sure that this bubble experiment will work, but for the sake of all the people finally reunited, those still planning to be, and also the tourism/hospitality businesses who need foreign visitors, I certainly hope it succeeds. The worst thing for everyone would be if the bubble is abruptly popped by one government or the other.

Right now, though, I prefer to remember the happy scenes at the airports yesterday. Here’s to many more.

The photo at the top of this post is a screenshot of international passengers’ entryway into the public arrivals hall, with a sign from Auckland International Airport above it. The photo of the media scrum is also a screenshot, and chosen to avoid showing the people at the centre of it.


Roger Owen Green said...

Some day, I'll go to Canada again. They just extended the ban for another month. https://news.yahoo.com/u-canada-covid-19-border-142110195.html

Roger Owen Green said...

And I SO love God Only Knows.

Arthur Schenck said...

I've always liked that song, too. Mind you, we're not alone in that…