Coronavirus

Australians could soon travel to Pacific nations as government flags travel bubble expansion

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai. Vanuatu has had no known cases of COVID-19. Source: AAP

With the Pacific successfully avoiding a widespread coronavirus outbreak, Australia and New Zealand's travel bubble could be expanded to the region.

Australians and New Zealanders could soon be allowed to travel to nations in the Pacific without needing to quarantine if the trans-Tasman travel bubble proves successful. 

Plans to allow travel between Australia and New Zealand are underway, but a date for the first flights between Canberra and Wellington remains unclear.

Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke said on Thursday that Pacific nations would be the next to be added to the travel bubble. 

"Pacific countries have done an outstanding job of getting ready for COVID and limiting the spread of it in the Pacific, and many of them are still in lockdown," he said on Thursday.

"Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Ardern said once the trans-Tasman bubble is up and running, three to four weeks after, we'll start looking at the Pacific bubble, which is a relatively quick time frame, in my view." 

 

Earlier this week, Ms Ardern confirmed New Zealand was also making plans for an expanded Pacific travel bubble.

Ms Ardern could not give a time frame for the Pacific bubble, however, saying her government was "focusing on Australia first".

"We're focusing on the trans-Tasman bubble first, and there's huge number of reasons why for that, not least for tourism not going one way for us, but also New Zealand's economic relationship with Australia," she told NewsTalk ZB.

"We are working on a framework, though, that can apply more broadly. I haven't put out a timeframe, because COVID hasn't had a timeframe, but we are using the data that's coming through from those nations around their cases, transmission, testing levels, and that is the basis upon which we'll make those decisions." 

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama.
AFP

But with no firm timeframe set, some Pacific nations traditionally heavily reliant on international tourism are pushing for borders to reopen quickly.

Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said it was not fair that Fiji, which only recorded 18 COVID-19 cases and currently has no known active infections, will not be included in the first stage of travel between Australia and New Zealand.

"With no new cases in nearly two months, Fiji deserves better than second-class consideration in a regional travel arrangement," he told the Australian Financial Review.

"This pandemic has left our tourism industry paralysed. In the interest of the thousands of Fijians who are now unemployed, we’re actively exploring all potential options, and are open to creative ideas – including a state-led resumption of travel between Australia and Fiji."

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