COVID clash makes Aus-NZ bubble unworkable

Ben McKay
·2-min read

Australia and New Zealand are at an impasse on trans-Tasman travel talks, with Jacinda Ardern's elimination strategy currently incompatible with Australia's hotspot approach.

Last week, Ms Ardern used her first major post-election address to dampen expectations of free movement between her country and Australia this year.

On Monday, she revealed New Zealand's displeasure with Australia's hotspot definition.

"Australia at the moment has indicated their hotspot regime wouldn't close down travel from any given state until they had as many as 10 cases or more a day over a three-day period," Ms Ardern said.

"Something like 10 cases a day would often be indicative of a much wider problem.

"New Zealand would consider 30 cases in the community an unreasonable risk. Australia at the moment is saying that that would be within their tolerance.

"So we do need to resolve how those border limits would work."

While both countries have used lockdowns to subdue the virus, there is a difference between Australia's suppression strategy and New Zealand's elimination approach.

New Zealand shows no tolerance for the virus, evidenced most recently in August when Auckland was locked down on the back of four community cases which still spread to be a cluster of 179 people, killing three.

"We have a very low tolerance for COVID," Ms Ardern said.

While Kiwis are able to travel to NSW and Northern Territory without the need for a 14-day isolation, arrivals to New Zealand are required to complete a fortnight of quarantine.

New Zealand may be softening on one of its preconditions for opening up - a 28-day run without community transmission in the other jurisdiction.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday that was being reviewed, saying "we could look at whether or not that's still an appropriate requirement ... it needs to be doable".

While the trans-Tasman bubble is on ice, New Zealand could open up to Pacific countries sooner.

Kiwi officials will head to the Cook Islands - which has not recorded a COVID-19 case throughout the pandemic - on Saturday to further the goal of opening borders to the Realm nation.