New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised hopes on Monday that a travel bubble with Australia may still become reality, even after a temporary resurgence of the novel coronavirus disrupted similar plans earlier this year.
The number of new cases in Australia surged in recent months during the southern hemisphere’s winter. The center of the Australian outbreak was the state of Victoria and its capital Melbourne, where officials now hope to ease most restrictions over the coming weeks.
New Zealand similarly saw a rise in the number of new cases in August, after a new cluster emerged in the country’s most populous city, Auckland. Contact tracing efforts appear to have prevented major community spread, paving the way for New Zealanders to return to a degree of normality in recent days.
If implemented, the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble would probably mirror approaches in Europe, where officials dropped some travel restrictions during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer but reimposed temporary measures for particularly virus-stricken cities, regions and, in some cases, countries.
Top Australian politicians have publicly backed the idea of a travel bubble, but New Zealand lawmakers cautioned that any approach must take into account regional variations in virus transmission.
“What we’d need to be assured of is when Australia is saying, ‘We’ve got a hot spot over here,’ that the border around that hot spot means [people] aren’t able to travel into the states we are engaging with,” Ardern told TVNZ on Monday.