Hopes of a post-coronavirus trans-Tasman bubble are growing, with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declaring the idea a demonstration of the “important Anzac bond”.
But Ms Ardern, who joined Australia’s National Cabinet meeting to discuss the idea on Tuesday, said travel arrangements would be relaxed only when there was confidence about coronavirus safety.
“When we feel comfortable and confident that we both won’t receive cases from Australia, but equally that we won’t export them, then that will be the time to move,” she said after the meeting.
Ms Ardern said more detail about plans to reopen borders between the two nations would be released after National Cabinet wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon.
While both countries have their borders largely shut due to coronavirus restrictions, they also require any overseas arrivals to spend two weeks in quarantine.
Ms Ardern said travellers should not expect to have to go into quarantine under a “bubble” arrangement.
“I think everyone would acknowledge it would be prohibitive,” she said.
She said the idea could be considered because Australia and New Zealand both had strong performances in stopping the spread of coronavirus.
“We should both be proud of the efforts that have been made and again the demonstration of the important Anzac bond between us,” she said.
Tasmania – which had four days without a new coronavirus case by Tuesday – is looking at direct flights to New Zealand for the first time since the 1990s.
Premier Peter Gutwein said he had raised the prospect of direct flights with Tourism Tasmania and Hobart Airport.
“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, it’s not going to happen next week,” he said.
“(But) as we work our way through the course of the calendar year if the opportunity arises … then that’s an opportunity we will look at.”
Queensland, which has had its borders closed for more than a month and recorded five COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, is also interested in the NZ travel idea.
But Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said interstate travel would come first.
“Queensland is an international tourist destination, but it is also a prominent Australian tourist destination as well, so we’ll be buckling down on the domestic market first and foremost,” she said.
“[Then] we’ll target New Zealand, and then hopefully down the track, when we beat this virus, the world will once again open up.”
Elsewhere on Tuesday, National Cabinet is also considering ways to get millions of people working from home back to offices and other worksites.
The National COVID-19 Coordination Commission was to provide a briefing on virus-safe workplaces as leaders mull relaxing economic and social restrictions.
Australia’s coronavirus death toll is at 96, with fewer than 1000 active cases out of more than 6830 detected since the pandemic erupted.
A cluster at a Melbourne abattoir has grown to 45 cases, with the outbreak behind 11 of Victoria’s 17 new infections on Tuesday.
Three more workers at a Sydney nursing home, where 15 residents have died from the virus, have tested positive.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged $352 million to a European Union global research fund to create a coronavirus vaccine.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will address the National Press Club in Canberra to make the case for restarting the economy.
He will say every week restrictions are in place costs Australia $4 billion.
Friday’s national cabinet meeting looms as crucial to easing baseline rules, with the economic cost increasingly in focus amid positive health outcomes.
More than 4.5 million people have downloaded the COVIDSafe tracing app, but the government wants millions more to sign on.
Legislation to boost privacy protections for the app has been released, with maximum penalties of five years in jail and $63,000 fines for accessing data without authorisation.