Australia Coronavirus case drops have raised the trans-Tasman travel bubble again. How far off are we?

14:06  19 september  2020
14:06  19 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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A Trans - Tasman bubble allowing travel between Australia and New Zealand is “on pause” after new Covid-19 outbreaks, and may be delayed until after “ The Trans - Tasman bubble ’s on pause for a little bit, but as soon as we are able to get policy commitment to it, we want to be administratively ready.

The Kiwi tourism industry is pinning its hopes on a snow-led recovery, but only if the trans - Tasman borders re-open in time. The Australian and

They were simpler times.

In April, Australia and New Zealand's coronavirus numbers were once considered low enough that the prospect of a trans-Tasman travel bubble was mooted to keep the twin economies chugging along, albeit at a slower pace.

But the momentum for that idea took a nosedive when the virus slipped out of Melbourne hotels and spread across Victoria.

Later, 'COVID-free' New Zealand celebrations were put on ice when new cases were revealed in Auckland.

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“A travel bubble that includes Fiji alongside Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance … we want to be in that bubble ,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s minister for the economy at the end of May, after detailing how pandemic travel restrictions could see government

A new ' trans - Tasman bubble ' would see a more 'domestic-like' travel experience between these The concept of a single trans - Tasman domestic tourism market was discussed some years ago by We need an exit path from the current crisis. Discussions have already begun on what it will take to

So, where exactly are we at with the bubble? And is there any prospect of it taking flight soon?

What's the latest?

At last Friday's meeting of the National Cabinet, Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the idea again, with significant caveats.

He suggested a potential travel bubble could work between regions that had no known outbreaks, which could allow travellers from New Zealand landing in Australia without having to do quarantine.

"For example, the whole of the South Island, that's an area where there is no COVID," he said.

"So if we could get to a situation soon where those coming home from New Zealand are able to enter Australia without going into a 14-day quarantine … we see that as another way of enabling more and more Australians to come home."

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A blueprint for the resumption of trans - Tasman travel has been delivered to Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern. With just one active case of COVID-19 in New Zealand, Prime Minister Ardern said more work needed to be done in Australia to combat the virus before she would sign off on the travel

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He said about 15 percent of returning Australians had come from New Zealand.

DFAT has estimated that 36,000 Australian citizens live overseas, 27,000 of whom wish to return home.

From September 28, another 2,000 people will be allowed into Australia incrementally, up from the original 4,000-person cap.

The cap is due to last until October 24.

What has been said previously?

Given the spike in Australia's cumulative coronavirus cases, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern have poured cold water over the idea of a full bubble opening up anytime soon.

New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters .

The bubble was later officially discussed at National Cabinet in May, when virus numbers appeared to be low on either side of the Tasman.

Border disputes between Australian states held up the idea the first time, while Victoria's outbreak shot down the idea the second time.

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work on their trans - Tasman travel bubble , Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has proposed a 'Bula Bubble ' to allow international visitors back into the "This Bula Bubble will allow Aussies and Kiwis to once again enjoy the best of Fiji while remaining separate from any other travellers and the

a trans - Tasman travel bubble that would include Australia, the rise in Covid-19 cases in Victoria Once hopeful of including other countries in the Pacific region in the travel bubble , Ardern has ' We wish Victoria all the very best as they continue to combat what is a devastating situation,' she said

In early August, Ms Ardern told NZ's AM show that Australia's levels of community transmission were far too high to revive the bubble idea.

"One of the things we said as part of our criteria was that anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days," she said.

"That is going to take a long time for Australia to get back to that place."

She added that the idea may be put on the "backburner for several months".

How will the new idea work?

It's unclear at this point.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told the ABC the finer details were still being worked through, and as such, the Government did not have "any further details to share publicly at this stage".

In the interim, what we can do is look at the standards a new scheme might be held to, such as what an 'outbreak' actually means.

The Australian Health Thesaurus defines it as "a sudden increase in occurrences of a disease in a particular time and place".

Last month, Auckland went back into lockdown after an outbreak was discovered, and presently there is a total of 67 cases on the North Island, according NZ Health Ministry data.

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Using the Prime Minister's rough outline, travellers from New Zealand's South Island would currently be able to fly to Australia without having to do quarantine on arrival.

But any future bubble scenario would also depend on how geographically wide an outbreak is defined, which may be at the town, city, or regional level.

What's it like to fly from NZ to Australia now?

Expensive, and sometimes long.

Because of the cap on foreign arrivals in Australia, and the pandemic-induced air travel downturn, airfares have risen significantly.

The pandemic has also led to the demise of Australian budget carrier Tiger, while Virgin Australia has been placed into voluntary administration.

Direct flights between Australian and New Zealand cities have been harder to get onto, presenting some travellers with high fares and long stop-overs.

According to a Google Flights search, getting a seat on the next available one-way flight from Auckland to Sydney in October costs $11,400 with stopovers in Malaysia, and China before landing in Australia.

The average price of the next three available flights was $8,116, at the time of writing.

This contrasts dramatically to prices in February, when Australian carriers and Air New Zealand were locked in a battle to entice people over the Tasman, with some flights from the latter priced as low as $NZ69 ($64).

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How are Australians in NZ coping?

Ben, an Australian currently living in New Zealand's North Island, has been in the country since June, while his partner and young children have been in the country since early March.

The Perth local, who asked the ABC only to use his first name, said his family has been staying with relatives since the Australian travel bans were introduced, and said they only anticipated it would last for a month.

"It'd be nice to not be living out of a suitcase for six months," he said.

He is one of many Australians abroad currently trying to keep on top of evolving border restrictions and fluctuating flight schedules.

"It would be quite helpful if the airport's actually had a bit of a register about incoming flights, so people could plan their return flights a bit better," he said.

One flight to Perth from Auckland flies via Singapore, while others route through Brisbane.

If he took the latter, it would amount to four weeks of quarantine all up, with fortnight-long quarantines in Brisbane and Perth respectively.

"For the young kids, it'd just be a nightmare," he said.

"It'd be 16 hours trying to stop a two-year-old from opening the hotel door."

He suggested Australia should be doing more to make things easier when returning home.

"Why would you not have Australian representation at the airport for any flights [to Australia], where passengers get the nose and swab tests," he said.

"That tells you if you're highly transmissible and [authorities] get the results before the flight lands and later can act accordingly."

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and New Zealand's Prime Minister's office were contacted for comment.

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