New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says while Australia and New Zealand have been “working quite hard” to set up a travel bubble between the two countries, it will only work if Australia can isolate hotspots quickly.
The coronavirus pandemic brought trans-Tasman travel to a near standstill earlier this year, with both countries slapping heavy restrictions on incoming and outgoing trips, and carriers all but abandoning routes due to unprofitability.
Suggestion of a trans-Tasman bubble was shelved after Victoria’s second wave hit in July, however hope of such an arrangement has been reignited this week, with talks progressing to have flights operating for as early as Christmas.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison had previously favoured having internal borders open first, he has now shifted to a hotspot regime, which would restrict travel from certain areas if cases flare.
NZ PM calls for ‘bit of a border around’ hotspots
Ms Ardern said on Wednesday Australia needs to clarify the definition of a hotspot and how they would close them off to ensure infection didn’t make its way into New Zealand.
“At what point will Australia say ‘That's an area we will put up a bit of a border around and won't have travel to’,” she told Channel Nine’s Today show.
“That will determine whether or not in our minds that will be sufficient just to keep everybody safe.”
When pressed on whether hotspots could be areas as small as a handful of suburbs in a city, Ms Ardern said that was a matter for Mr Morrison to work through.
New Zealand hasn’t had a local case of coronavirus since Thursday after an outbreak of more than 150 cases in Auckland rocked the nation following more than 100 days without local infections.
Aside from Victoria, Australia’s other states and territories are continuing to successfully suppress the virus.
NSW has now recorded four consecutive days of zero local cases after weeks of low-level community transmission.
Ms Ardern once again reiterated New Zealand’s elimination strategy and the nation’s “zero tolerance for cases”.
She said “a bit of work” was needed to ensure both countries were comfortable with each other’s arrangements heading into the bubble.
“What you can see is that we do want to make it work. We want it to be safe,” the NZ prime minister said.
“We want everyone to be comfortable with it and know that we are safeguarding our own strategies as we do it.”
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