Australia, New Zealand announce plans for COVID-safe travel zone

Sydney, Australia, May 5 (efe-epa).- The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand announced plans Tuesday for a trans-Tasman coronavirus-safe travel zone between the two countries “as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern announced the plan after the New Zealand prime minister joined an Australian Cabinet meeting via video link.

“A trans-Tasman COVID-safe travel zone would be mutually beneficial, assisting our trade and economic recovery, helping kick-start the tourism and transport sectors, enhancing sporting contacts, and reuniting families and friends,” the two leaders said in a joint statement released after the meeting.

The arrangement would be conditional on “necessary health, transport and other protocols had been developed and met, to ensure the protection of public health” and “would need to take into account state and territory movement restrictions,” the statement said.

Both countries closed their borders in late March to stem the spread of the pandemic.

“We need to be cautious as we progress this initiative. Neither country wants to see the virus rebound so it’s essential any such travel zone is safe,” the prime ministers said. “Relaxing travel restrictions at an appropriate time will clearly benefit both countries and demonstrates why getting on top of the virus early is the best strategy for economic recovery.”

Morrison and Ardern said the two countries had worked closely together on their respective border restrictions since the pandemic began, and that reflected their “special relationship.”

“Our relationship is one of family – and our unique travel arrangement means we have a head-start for when it is time to get trans-Tasman travel flowing again,” the leaders said.

Once the trans-Tasman corridor had been worked out, the countries would explore possibilities with other nations in the South Pacific.

But Morrison told reporters in Canberra that the plan was “still some time away.”

“At some point, both Australia and New Zealand will start connecting with the rest of the world again,” he said. “The most obvious place for that to start is between Australia and New Zealand but that’s not something that’s about to start next week.”

New Zealand on Tuesday reported its second straight day with zero new cases, while Australia reported 24 on Monday.

Australia has recorded a total of 6,847 cases and 97 deaths, while New Zealand has recorded 1,486 cases and 20 deaths as of Thursday. EFE-EPA


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