Trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ travellers could be isolated in ‘green lanes’ for COVID-19 protection

queenstown new zealand - september6,2015 : qantas airline plane approach for departure from queenstown airport southland new zealand

The federal government is reportedly considering the use of so-called ‘green lanes’ to protect New Zealanders flying to Australia once the trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ opens.

Australia’s Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham, revealed to Sky News Australia on Sunday that green lanes could be used to separate Kiwis from other arrivals at airports who came from nations outside of the trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ agreement.

Birmingham identified the use of green lanes as one of the “complex logistical issues” being considered to assure New Zealanders they would be safe from others required to quarantine.

“We’re working through those and when New Zealand’s ready and we’re ready, then we look forward to welcoming our Kiwi cousins back,” he said.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group’s (TTSBG) proposal – which The Australian said is being seriously considered by the Morrison and Ardern governments – suggests airlines would be required to refund passengers if they became unwell between booking their flight and travelling, in order to deter travellers from flying while sick.

Moreover, boarding would take longer to reduce the likelihood of larger queues and people could remain socially distanced.

Masks and gloves would also be offered to passengers who wanted them, and hospital-grade air filters would be used on board to minimise the likelihood of virus transmission.

Ann Sherry, co-chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, which is behind the TTSBG, told The Australian “channels” would be created to keep trans-Tasman bubble arrivals isolated.

“There’ll be a roped-off walkway that will be clearly marked. There will probably be staff there; there’ll be hand sanitisers,” Sherry said.

“International airports are not that busy at the moment. The people who have to quarantine for two weeks [in hotels] will be in a separate arrivals line and queue walkway than the people who come in from New Zealand.

“The purpose [of the travel bubble] is you can travel without two weeks’ quarantine.”

The plan is also reportedly seeking to reduce “touch points” that passengers have with flight crew, airport staff and each other – as well as the green lanes, smart gates would be used and passengers told to keep 1.5 metres apart as they left airports.

According to The Australian, the Sydney-to-Auckland service is likely to be the first route under the bubble, which is reportedly due to start in August.

However, such a date would pre-empt the September launch set by the TTSBG.

After that, The Australian claims business travellers from other Asia-Pacific countries with low rates of COVID-19 could be allowed in without having to quarantine.

Senator Birmingham did not deny business travellers could receive an exemption from the move, which is geared towards rebooting business tourism.

“There’s a lot of contingency work being done at present to think about the different scenarios as we gradually seek to reopen all parts of the economy,” he told Sky News.

“And, of course, contingency work occurs in relation to think about how, when the circumstances allow and the health advice permits, we might open up further to other safe countries in the region.”

The Australian government is also reportedly considering allowing business travellers from other APAC countries with low rates of COVID-19, including Singapore, into Australia without having to quarantine.

As such, The Australian reported the trans-Tasman travel bubble would be used as a guinea pig before being expanded to corporate passengers from outside New Zealand.

Featured image: iStock/suriya silsaksom

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