Australians desperate to go on holiday to New Zealand could soon have their wish, but would need to adhere to strict travel safety protocols.
Opening up a trans-Tasman travel bubble could see stringent pre-travel health checks, an on-arrival test, no physical forms and social distancing on flights.
This would mean flights would eventually rocket in price once the airlines recover financially, as they would only be able to fill half of their seats.
Earlier this week, the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group were set up to assess whether such a travel bubble is possible, with some hoping it could open within months.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned such travel is still a long way off, with worldwide international trips unlikely to resume until next year.
Chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, Ann Sherry, said as both nations had handled the outbreak well, it put them in a good position to start travel.
A couple are seen returning to Australia on a flight from India on May 8 (pictured), with international flights of the future likely to involve health checks and socially distanced seating
‘Some of the things that will be done will be about public confidence,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘While temperature testing is an imperfect way of knowing if people are unwell, it’s at least a screen.’
Travellers’ temperatures are likely to be checked at the airport before departure, and also at their destination.
They may also have to complete pre-travel checks, and immigration checks are likely to be touch-less to prevent the transferring of germs.
A ‘checkboard’ style seating pattern on planes could also ensure people were properly socially distanced in case someone was unknowingly infected.
A woman has her temperature checked at the Apple Store at Bondi Junction on May 7 (pictured) with similar checks likely at airports to allow trans-Tasman travel
A man gets his temperature checked before entering Sydney’s Fish Market on April 9 (pictured)m a measure likely to be introduced at airports to allow trans-Tasman travel
It would mean passengers had no other person sat either directly in front or behind them.
The panel meets for the first time on Tuesday to discuss measures that could be put in place.
With airlines wanting to recoup the millions of dollars lost during the pandemic, prices could initially be low.
But they are likely to rise quickly, as profit margins will be tighter due to socially distanced seating, meaning planes flying half empty.
‘I have heard mixed views on this,’ Ms Sherry admitted.
The idea of the ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ is that the movement of people and free trade would once again flow normally, while the rest of the world remains in COVID-19 lockdown.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said both countries would need to be confident they would neither import or export cases before travel between them is allowed.
Australians do not know when they will be allowed to travel overseas for a holiday (pictured, Australians returning from India on May 8)
Customers are seen having their temperatures checked before being allowed into the Apple Store at Bondi Junction on May 7 (pictured)
Ms Ardern joined Australia’s coronavirus cabinet meeting on Tuesday for the neighbouring countries to discuss reopening their borders to trans-Tasman travel following their successes in containing the disease.
Following the meeting Ms Ardern said the logistics of how the ‘travel bubble’ would work were still being discussed.
She said the ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ would likely not include a quarantine period.
‘People wouldn’t travel if they had to stay on either side in quarantine for a two-week period and have to do the same when you return,’ she said.
‘But there is still a lot of work to be done before we can progress an idea like that.’
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured on May 7) has revealed that trans-Tasman travel talks are underway
Both countries have a COVID-19 mortality rate of just 1 per cent and have boosted their medical equipment reserves as they plan to slowly reopen their economies, including restarting travel across the Tasman sea.
Federal Liberal MP Dave Sharma, a former ambassador, said that trade and travel to the Pacific Islands should also be considered, as their governments had done a ‘good job’ in limiting the COVID-19 spread.
‘By allowing normal air links and tourism to resume, we would provide a lifeline for many of these small economies,’ he wrote in The Australian.
‘The Pacific Islands could once more begin to access their biggest tourism markets, Australia and New Zealand.
An Australian family waits to go into quarantine after landing at Adelaide airport on April 21 (pictured)
‘And it would provide an opportunity for many Aussies and Kiwis to take a holiday in our region, rather than further abroad, and get to know our own neighbourhood a little better.’
Ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, said she was hopeful that a travel ‘hub’ could be formed between the two countries.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,913
New South Wales: 3,047
Western Australia: 552
South Australia: 439
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 6,913
‘We know that unfortunately international travel is a mid to long term vision, so if can establish a hub between New Zealand and Australia I think that would be a very positive move,’ Berejiklian said.
‘I’m hoping that we’ll get to a stage where our state borders can be relaxed and then we can potentially have a phenomenal New Zealand and Australia cooperation.
‘It would allow us to pull our economic resources, pull our trade opportunities but also move together into the future.’
The move would give the tourism industry a much-needed boost as international tourism is likely to remain banned for many months.
Both countries closed their borders to travellers in March as the coronavirus crisis escalated.
It is a move which experts say likely saved thousands of lives.