Local tourism operators are baffled by new reports of a possible travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia in the coming weeks.
According to reports out of Australia, a travel bubble between New Zealand and New South Wales could be open within weeks.
But the report says travel inside the bubble would initially only be one-way with Kiwis heading to Australia, and restricted to those living in the South Island.
New Zealand has been considering opening a travel bubble with the Cook Islands before the community Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland last month.
Liana Scott, the president of the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, yesterday said New Zealand emphasis would now appear to be giving movement to Australia or vice versa “priority consideration”.
“Opening of bubble talks with Australia is fine, but the reaction of the people in the industry I represent would understandably be ‘what about us?’” Scott said.
Keeping borders closed means no new money is moving within the economy, she said.
But Scott said there were other consequences, “for example from a Health perspective breast screening is not currently possible due to the inability of the technician to travel”.
“Minimising the risk with opening the borders is of course the main focus and if let’s say the South Island is like Rarotonga, Covid free, this could lead to a quicker, although limited, opening.
“Any option is on the table, and if that meant creating safe travel zones, we would like to see that.”
Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown earlier confirmed that although the conversations on the travel bubble with New Zealand aren’t as frequent as they were prior to the community outbreak, they are still happening.
Officials in both countries are still working through finalising the arrangement under the premise that there are to be at least 28 days with no Covid-19 cases in the community, Brown said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ1’s Breakfast yesterday a state-by-state trans-Tasman bubble was “possible” before Christmas.
News.com.au is reporting the federal government has approached the New South Wales government to discuss different options.
Ardern confirmed work had been underway for weeks on the prospect of forming a bubble, and the ability to move between parts of both countries that were not affected by Covid-19.
A week ago, Ardern while speaking the likelihood of travel bubbles with the Pacific and Australia before a vaccine is developed, said: “We prioritised obviously the Cook Islands, they are still in a good place they are waiting for us to get back into a good place.
“Likewise, with Australia, we haven’t put any timelines on it, but so long as they get into a position where they are free of community transmission that could be an option that would be back on the table.”
However according to Australian Associated Press,Ardern has stressed a high degree of caution owing to a deficiency in health care in the Pacific.
Last week, Health minister Rose Toki-Brown told Parliament that the country is equipped to handle Covid-19 cases.
“Te Marae Ora is prepared for the risks of potential cases and we do not sit back and relax about being prepared for what could come,” Toki-Brown said.
- Additional reporting from NZ Herald