The New Zealand government intends to establish a travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.
The arrangement would allow people to travel freely between Australia and New Zealand without needing to quarantine for two weeks on arrival. Passengers arriving from New Zealand are already exempt from quarantine requirements in Australia.
The travel bubble was “pending confirmation” from Australian officials, Ms. Ardern said during a news conference, and would be contingent on “no significant changes in the circumstances of either country.”
New Zealand, population about five million, has managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic, with 2,096 cases and 25 lives lost, according to a New York Times database. In Australia, which has a population of about 25.5 million, 28,031 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while 908 have died.
The governments of New Zealand and Australia announced in May that they had reached a formal agreement to form a travel bubble as soon as it was safe to do so. But surges in new cases, most notably in Victoria, Australia, left the plans suspended.
Here’s what else to know in coronavirus news from around the world:
Officials in South Korea have ordered schools in the Seoul metropolitan area to move all classes online starting Tuesday until at least the end of the year. Additional measures may be announced this week as the country struggles to contain its worst outbreak yet. South Korea, which has a population of about 50 million, reported 718 new cases on Monday, down from a record 1,030 the day before.
Japan is also struggling with an uptick in coronavirus cases and will hit pause on a nationwide campaign to encourage travel and tourism. With hospitals under increasing pressure from a recent, steady growth in new infections, the program, called “Go To Travel,” will be halted from Dec. 28 through at least Jan. 11, covering the most important holiday of the calendar, New Year’s, when many people travel home. The program had provided substantial discounts to consumers to encourage them to support the country’s beleaguered tourism and service sectors.
The Netherlands will lock down for at least five weeks to limit the spread of the virus, Mark Rutte, the prime minister, announced in a national address. The measures include the closure of schools, gyms, non-essential businesses, theaters and more until January 19. Medical offices will be allowed to stay open.
Singapore on Monday became the first Asian country to approve a coronavirus vaccine made by the American drug maker Pfizer, announcing that the first shipment would arrive this month and be given free to Singaporeans and long-term residents. Singapore has also agreed to buy vaccines from the American drug maker Moderna and the Chinese company Sinovac. “If all goes according to plan, we will have enough vaccines for everyone in Singapore by the third quarter of 2021,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an address to the nation.
Officials in Germany urged the public to not rush to stores to finish their Christmas shopping this week, as all but those selling essential goods prepared to close on Wednesday amid a heightened lockdown. Germany announced the stricter measures on Sunday after weeks of a partial lockdown that kept both schools and shops open but failed to adequately tackle the surging numbers of new coronavirus cases.
Austria wrapped up its first nationwide mass coronavirus testing on Sunday, turning up about 4,200 apparently symptomless infections. Slightly less than a quarter of the country’s population took part in the free screening, available to anyone more than 6 years old who had not been sick in the past three months. Rudi Anschober, the Austrian health minister, called it “not just a good start, but a successful step in containing the pandemic in Austria.”
The European Union launched a mobile app on Monday aimed at facilitating safe travel between its 27 member countries, as well as to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, which belong to the bloc’s Schengen zone. The app, called Re-open EU, is intended to help residents of Europe navigate a patchwork of different national restrictions, as well as quarantine and testing requirements, and was introduced ahead of the busy holiday season.
Jennifer Jett, Ben Dooley and Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.