There has been a renewed push from overseas nations keen to establish a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia, as the Trans-Tasman passage returns to the table for discussion.
For months, the idea of travel between countries which have recorded relatively low coronavirus cases has been floated, but it seems leaders are now eager to roll out plans within the next few months.
Countries including Israel, Korea and Greece have expressed keen interest in establishing a travel bubble with Australia under a plan that would not require people to quarantine on arrival, according to 7News.
Prime MInister Scott Morrison this week said he was still keen to eventually establish a travel bubble with New Zealand and extend that to include Pacific island nations as well.
Mr Morrison said other countries including Japan and Singapore were also interested in restarting travel ties.
Despite international travel discussions, he said his first priority was reopening domestic borders.
There are still more than 18,000 Australians overseas wanting to return home, prompting calls for caps on international arrivals to be lifted.
This idea was off the table, Mr Morrison said, citing a focus on managing risks in hotel quarantine.
“That's why I am not lifting the caps,” he told reporters last week.
“I want to stress that 4000 Australians are still returning every week, every single week, and we've got tens of thousands of people who have been going through quarantine as well from overseas.”
Mr Morrison said the NSW government processed most incoming travellers, but was now focused on containing coronavirus outbreaks across the state. He said state and territory leaders agreed local containment needed to be the immediate focus, explaining the passenger limit was being reviewed every two weeks.
The prime minister said he hoped there would be more room to move once Victoria and NSW case numbers come down.
His sentiments were echoed by Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham, who said it was too early to speculate how any future travel bubbles might logistically infold.
“My number one priority is always going to be the health consideration and keeping Australians safe,” he said.
Despite some early optimism Australians and New Zealanders would be safe to travel between their two countries, discussions were sidelined following a spike in cases in Victoria.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the country would open up for quarantine travel for the Cook Islands this year, but said a similar plan for Australia was “some time off”.
“We are still undertaking the work, the foundational work for the trans-Tasman travel arrangements but obviously that is going to be some time off,” she said.
“Part of our criteria is anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days,” she told network Three earlier in August.
“That is going to take a long time for Australia ... so that will be on the backburner for some time.”
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