The Prime Minister announced Australia may soon begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions, but flagged that international travel would not be returning “anytime soon”, except maybe to New Zealand.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a press conference the government is putting protections in place so that Australia may soon “move back to all the things Australians like doing again”. But he warned things will not be exactly as they were before.
“I can’t see international travel occurring anytime soon,” Morrison said.
“The risks there are obvious. The only exception to that, as I have flagged, is potentially with New Zealand, and we have had some good discussions about that. But outside of that, that is unlikely.”
New Zealand this week began to lift some restrictions on its strict lockdown rules, announcing its infection rate has been in single digits since 19 April, with only three new cases confirmed today and two yesterday.
Academics and tourism marketing bodies are pushing for the proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble should be extended to economically vulnerable Pacific Islands, which have experienced remarkably low infection rates.
Dr Leonardo Nogueira de Moraes, a postdoctoral research fellow in tourism, resilience and planning at the University of Melbourne told Traveller that the bubble should include Pacific nations which are vulnerable to exploitation from China.
Many Pacific Islands who rely on tourism dollars have been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions and natural disasters, so the argument is that Australia should strenghten tourism ties to help reestablish economies in a sustainable way.
“It is expected that Australia will seek to re-establish international flight connections to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific, especially those struck by recent cyclones such as Vanuatu, as a way to strengthen ties through tourism and to help them recover,” Nogueira de Moraes said.
Graeme West, regional general manager of Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, told Travel Weekly the destination would love the opportunity to welcome back Australian and New Zealand visitors in the near future.
“The Cook Islands is still Covid -19 free which is very fortunate, and we must protect that status together,” he said.
“We are working closely with our Ministry of Health to develop protocol to enable visitors to return as soon as practically possible, while simultaneously ensuring the safety and well-being of visitors and locals alike.”
Vanuatu, which is still recovering from the devastating cyclone Harold, has also reported no cases of COVID-19, while Fiji, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, has only reported 18 cases and no deaths.
Featured image: iStock/MicroStockHub