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Australia, New Zealand Consider Lifting Travel Restrictions with Possible 'Travel Bubble'

By VOA News May 04, 2020

Leaders from Australia and New Zealand are discussing the possible creation of a travel agreement--- or "travel bubble" between the two nations as they begin to roll back their coronavirus-related restrictions.

In March, both countries implemented strict travel restrictions, banning entry to almost all foreigners. But with coronavirus outbreaks appearing to have been brought under control, Australia and New Zealand are now seriously considering slowly lifting restrictions on flights with a possible "trans-Tasman travel bubble" later this year.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accepted an invitation from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to join in a meeting of the Australian government's National Cabinet on Tuesday to discuss the proposal.

"If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that's New Zealand," Morrison said during a press conference last month.

Ardern discussed the concept of a travel agreement with reporters, suggesting that opening flights between the two nations would offer "huge advantages" to both and could help to reinvigorate their economies.

Ardern, however, warned that unrestricted international travel, even with Australia, might still be further away and that more health measures will have to be implemented before the "travel bubble" can take effect.

"One thing I'm not willing to do is jeopardize the position that New Zealand has got itself into by moving too soon to open our borders -- even to Australia," Ardern said in a live press conference on April 27. "Don't expect this to happen in a couple of weeks' time. We need to make sure we are locking in the gains all New Zealanders have helped us achieve and make sure we have health precautions in place."

New Zealand and Australia have both achieved a COVID-19 mortality rate of just 1% and managed to slow the increase in new cases. Going forward, leaders say they will continue to discuss how to prevent the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 infections as they begin to reopen the countries and attempt to kick start industries that have been maimed by the restrictions. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.

While similar precautions and restrictions were employed by the two countries to combat the spread of the coronavirus, New Zealand does not have a contact tracing app like CovidSafe, which Australia launched last week.

About 4.4 million Australians have already downloaded the CovidSafe app; however, this total is still a couple of million people short of Morrison's goal of 40% of the 16 million citizens with smartphones. If the federal government is to recall national restrictions, officials warn that more people will have to download and sign up for the app. New Zealand has indicated that it intends to release a similar app soon.

Australia and New Zealand have one of the closest bilateral relationships in the world, and they contribute heavily to each other's industries.

Australian passport holders can travel and work in New Zealand without a visa, and vice versa. According to an international visitor survey conducted by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, Australians account for almost 40% of international travelers. In Australia, New Zealanders compose approximately 15% of international arrivals.

Tourism in both nations is an extremely lucrative and essential industry. In New Zealand, tourism is the No. 1 export industry and contributes more than 20% of total exports according to a report by the TIA. While tourism is only Australia's fourth-biggest export industry, it generates billions of dollars and employs 5% of the work force.

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