Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that he is in discussions with Ardern to create a trans-Tasman bubble. “If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand,” Morrison told the press. (The Tasman Sea separates the two nations.)
That news has fueled hopes for hard-hit travel and hotel industries in both countries. Australia has also been praised for its quick action to curb the spread of Covid-19. It had warned citizens, however, not to expect international travel bans to be lifted until December, at the earliest.
“Travel bubbles” may also prove useful as a model for other nations where tourism represents a large portion of GDP, and for airline and tour operators around the world that have seen their businesses collapse.
Although travelers from China are Australia’s top source of tourism spending, Australia and New Zealand are significant destinations for each other. Last year, the two countries sent some 2.6 million people between each other, according to Executive Traveler.
The timing of the proposed change has been not been publicized. Before opening the two borders to international travel, inter-domestic travel bans would first have to be lifted. In both countries, residents have been asked to quarantine without traveling far from home.
New Zealand, however, has already begun easing restrictions for its quarantined citizens. On Monday, New Zealanders will once again be able to order food delivery and use drive-through restaurants, though they will still be encouraged to isolate at home. Restrictions on surfing, swimming, and fishing are also being removed.
In Australia, some lockdown restrictions will be lifted as of next week, allowing more children to attend school in person and elective surgeries to be performed. Tour operators are envisioning a return of road trips as part of a boom in local holidays, once public health officials deem the rates of coronavirus community transmission low enough to make that safe.
New Zealand’s “bubbles” concept has also been officially adopted in New Brunswick, Canada, a mostly rural province that has seen just over 100 cases of Covid-19 infections and no new infections in the past six days, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As of yesterday (April 24), its premier announced that residents could form and gather in “two-family bubbles.”