Bold plan to reopen borders with NZ
Residents of Australia and New Zealand would be able to pack their bags for a trip within their own trans-Tasman "travel bubble" under a new plan suggested by New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters.
Mr Peters, who is also the country's Deputy Prime Minister, said he wanted to see New Zealand's borders opened up to our country as soon as possible.
He said both countries were "beating the crap" out of COVID-19, and creating a "trans-Tasman bubble" was an idea the rest of the world should pay attention to.
Under Mr Peters' suggestion to boost tourism there would be no two-week quarantine in place for visitors, the New Zealand Herald reports.
He said an arrangement for free movement between the two countries could be a feature in New Zealand's eased-off level 2 conditions. The country is currently operating under level 4 restrictions - some of the toughest measures in the world - with an announcement on any change due on Monday, May 11.
If the plan was to go ahead without a two week quarantine on arrival, potential visitors would need thorough health and security checks, Mr Peters said.
"It could happen at level 2 as long as you had a guarantee as to who was coming and their safety and security," he said.
"The moment you put in a 14-day quarantine forget it - it's not going to work."
He was confident the idea was a winner given New Zealand and Australia were both conquering - or "beating the crap" out of - the virus, and went on to suggest the "travel bubble" model could be mirrored by the rest of the world, where borders between select neighbouring countries would be opened up for trade and travel.
Speaking to Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon on the Today show earlier this week, Mr Peters said Australia and New Zealand were "reliable, trustworthy countries where borders are secure and we can share the borders to expand our economic and tourism base."
Stefanovic said it was a "terrific idea" and asked Peters what was needed for it to go ahead.
"I think both countries are going to need to develop that relationship even faster now," he said.
"Every day, every week and every month is very important so we've got to start building good and sound ideas that have a permanence and durability about them and are not experimental … This is a very sound idea."
But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remains cautious.
Ms Ardern on Monday claimed New Zealand had scored a significant victory against the spread of coronavirus, as the country began a phased exit from lockdown.
"There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand," she declared.
"We have won that battle."
She later added: "One thing I'm not willing to do is jeopardise the position New Zealand is in by moving too soon to open our borders, even to Australia."
Both Australia and New Zealand are currently limiting international travel to only "critical" trips, such as those for essential, urgent, or medical reasons.
The "bubble" idea would presumably be one of the first steps introduced once travel restrictions are eased.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed he had discussed the possibility with Ms Ardern last week.
"If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Mr Morrison said.
On Sunday, Australia Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News that "an arrangement with New Zealand" would be one of the first things to examine, in regards to "steps toward making sure that people could travel safely," but said it would be "very hard to see" opening borders with the US or UK "at this time".
"New Zealand would be the natural partner," he said, later adding that he thinks it would be "logical in the short-to-medium term."
Mr Dutton did not suggest a concrete time frame for loosening travel restrictions for travel, and Australia's chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, recently commented that he expects at least three or four months before international travel resumes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.