Australia, New Zealand weigh trans-Tasman virus ‘bubble’

Australia and New Zealand said on Tuesday they are planning to open up their borders for a “trans-Tasman travel bubble”, that would allow them to lift bilateral coronavirus travel bans.

“When we feel comfortable and confident that we both won’t receive cases from Australia, but equally that we won’t export them, then that will be the time to move”, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said after attending the Australian cabinet coronavirus meeting, at the invitation of Australia’s PM Scott Morrison.

The two neighbours have closed their borders to all non-citizens for more than a month and imposed mandatory quarantines on anyone returning home from overseas.

“We both stand to benefit from getting travel up and running again. Families and friendships span the Tasman”, Ardern said.

Australia on Tuesday reported 6,800 coronavirus infections and 97 deaths, while New Zealand has recorded 1,137 infections and 20 deaths. Some of the measures have been eased slightly in both countries, but restrictions on large gatherings and non-essential travel remain.

“When we are seeing Australians travel from Melbourne to Cairns, at about that time I would expect everything being equal we would be able to fly from Melbourne to Auckland or Christchurch”, Morrison said, and added that a decision about easing federal restrictions will be taken on Friday.