2 May 2020

Bigger bubble with Australia, Asia, and Pacific mooted

11:20 am on 2 May 2020

By Mark Price and Vaughan Elder of Otago Daily Times

The idea of a New Zealand-Australia travel bubble has been taken a step further by University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker.

Travellers with face masks at Auckland Airport international arrivals during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak on 20/3/2020.

Travellers wearing masks arrive at Auckland Airport's international terminal in March during the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

Prof Baker has upped the ante by suggesting at some point prior to a vaccine being found the transtasman bubble could be extended to include Asian and Pacific countries that had been successful in fighting the virus, such as South Korea, Taiwan and even China.

"You could conceive of a future where much of the eastern hemisphere is virus-free," he said.

"And that includes some of our major trading partners."

Prof Baker was hesitant to put a timeline on when such a scenario might be possible and stressed it was an "aspirational" goal and dependent on New Zealand continuing to stamp out Covid-19.

Now was not the time to be complacent, he said, as there was still the chance of a second wave, which would reduce the chances of such a scenario.

The bigger bubble idea was met with some caution by the Lakes District tourism industry yesterday.

Mayor Jim Boult said it was "certainly worth a hard look" if it could be done safely.

"We'd need to be enormously sure that we weren't opening ourselves up to a second round of Covid-19."

He was optimistic a transtasman bubble could be formed before or during the ski season, provided there was no risk.

"The Australian market makes up about 30 percent of our total ski business.

"Getting them here during July would be a stunning move forward for the district."

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said Australia was "the big prize".

"So we would be really keen for the government to work towards that transtasman bubble."

Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone skifield general manager Bridget Legnavsky agreed, saying Australia had "more potential" with a very dedicated skiing market.

China made up about 10 percent of the resort's business and that amount was growing rapidly.

"We would hate to see Covid-19 put a dampener on this growth."

National Party leader Simon Bridges said overseas bubbles would be an important conversation in the coming weeks and months.

"But right now we need to focus on getting New Zealand operating and I'm worried the government isn't focused enough on that."

The government will decide during the coming week if domestic tourism will be allowed under level 2.

This story was first published by the Otago Daily Times.

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