Australia opens travel bubble with New Zealand

The long-awaited initiative removes the need for visitors to quarantine.

Both countries have contained Covid outbreaks and kept infection rates low, in large part due to hard borders.

Excited passengers crowded Australian airports ahead of reunions with family and friends.

Thousands of people are expected to travel on Monday with some rising before dawn to get ready to board.

"I didn't realise how emotional I was going to be today," passenger Dawn Tratt told the BBC at Sydney airport.

Visit from Tongan representatives strengthens ties with Gunnedah

The Kingdom of Tonga lies significantly more than a cooee away from the landlocked north-western NSW Shire of Gunnedah, but talks between representatives from the two locations have uncovered opportunities the two could realise together.

Mayor of Gunnedah Shire Cr Jamie Chaffey said there is a strong alignment of needs between Gunnedah and Tonga, with the visit marking the beginning of a valuable friendship.

“There are significant employment opportunities here in Gunnedah, both in agriculture and far beyond, and Tonga is interested,” Cr Chaffey said.

Tropical Cyclone Seroja makes landfall in Western Australia

The storm hit the Western Australian coast south of Kalbarri at 8.00pm AWST on Sunday as a category three system.

At 10.00pm AWST the storm weakened to a category two system as it continued moving inland.

Cyclone Seroja is travelling at around 55km/h and significant impacts are expected to extend south and inland through to Wheat Belt communities overnight.

The cyclone will weaken as it moves further inland today but is still likely to result in damaging wind gusts and heavy rain.

Travellers to Western Australia still required to quarantine

Western Australia plans to keep treating New Zealand arrivals like international travellers and enforcing mandatory quarantine - bursting some potential travellers' hopes of travel bubble bliss.

Among them is Moira Green, who launched straight into plans to see her two sons and granddaughter in Fremantle after the announcement of quarantine-free trans-Tasman trips on Tuesday.

Her travel agent broke the news she'd still have to spend two weeks and at least $2500 staying in government-run quarantine if she wanted to get to the state.

NZ, Australia travel no-quarantine bubble to start on 19 April - Ardern, Hipkins

The new settings will begin from 11.59pm on 18 April.

Ardern said the position New Zealand found itself in had still come at a cost.

Cabinet has been meeting today to decide the date the two-way quarantine-free travel will start. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised last month to announce on 6 April when the bubble could begin operating.

She today said airlines had not been given any forewarning about when a bubble with Australia would be opened.

Ardern had previously said the government had carefully worked through the framework of a trans-Tasman bubble.

Australia's Health Minister reassures public over AstraZeneca safety

Health authorities have said it is "likely" the vaccine is linked to a 44-year-old Melbourne man being hospitalised with blood clots, almost a fortnight after he received his injection.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia's medicine regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and an expert advisory group on vaccines maintain the AstraZeneca jab is safe - but are continuing to investigate the incident.

He said authorities had put the vaccine through rigorous testing before allowing its use across the country.

Australia contributes to COVAX vaccines in Tonga

Australia’s $80 million contribution to the COVAX AMC has made this first round of deliveries possible. We will support Tonga deliver these lifesaving vaccines to frontline health workers, quarantine workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people.

“Australia will do this in partnership with your country’s priorities and needs” said Adrian Morrison, Australian High Commissioner to Tonga.

“There is no higher priority for Australia than working with our neighbours to access safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

Australia falls 85% short of vaccine delivery goal

The 85% shortfall comes two days after Brisbane entered another snap lockdown to combat a small outbreak.

Last week the government said the vaccine rollout did not demand urgency given Australia's low infection rates.

The country has recorded 909 deaths and 29,300 cases since the pandemic began - far fewer than many other nations.

But sporadic outbreaks have led to six lockdowns in cities in recent months. Critics say situations like Brisbane's outbreak show why a quick vaccine programme is still needed.

Channel Nine cyber-attack disrupts live broadcasts in Australia

The broadcaster said it was unable to air several shows on Sunday, including Weekend Today.

Nine said it was investigating whether the hack was "criminal sabotage or the work of a foreign nation".

Australia's Parliament was also investigating a possible cyber-attack in Canberra on Sunday.

Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie said access to IT and emails at Parliament House had been cut as a precaution. He said this was done in response to issues affecting an "external provider", without elaborating.

Auckland Airport 'ready' with separate zone in terminal

The airport has made plans to segregate at-risk and no-risk travellers - dividing the international terminal into two self-contained processing zones.

Zone A, a safe travel area, will be used exclusively for quarantine-free arrivals and all departures.

Zone B, the health management area, will be used for processing arrivals who are going on to managed isolation facilities.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood told Morning Report that planning started in August 2020 and its price tag is in the millions.