Thinking Beyond the Trans-Tasman Bubble

December 21, 2020
As we think about what 2021 might be like, many of us will be questioning how New Zealand will open its borders, but keep us free from COVID-19?

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Cabinet has agreed in principle to establish a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand in the first quarter of next year. This would enable us to travel between the two countries, without the need for mandatory quarantine, provided both countries have the same COVID free status.

Planning a trip to Brisbane or Melbourne sounds good, and a bubble is definitely a significant step towards a freely moving world, but it’s in danger of bursting before it even begins

Businesses will undoubtedly benefit from a trans-Tasman bubble becoming a reality. Travel between Australia and New Zealand will be key to re-stimulating the tourism industry that is the cornerstone of our economies and will help re-employ some of the thousands of people who worked in hospitality, tourism, and retail who lost their jobs this year.

However, business also relies on certainty and could be hesitant to investing in employing staff under a fragile arrangement. If the trans-Tasman bubble forms, the question becomes not if it will burst, but when. We know that even one imported case would be enough to burst the bubble and require potentially thousands of travellers to quarantine upon their return home.

Initiating the arrangement is also dependent on both countries being substantially COVID-free, currently threatened at this very moment by the community outbreak in Sydney. We already have limited quarantine capability, so any ‘bubble burst’ is likely to have significant consequences and our attempt at re-stimulating the economy will be snuffed out at a moment’s notice.

Are we restricting ourselves by relying solely on a COVID-free Australia for economic growth? What opportunities exist that will allow us to safely engage with the wider world, such as US and Europe, where some of New Zealand’s highest-value tourists originate?

Rather than being dependent on a whole country being COVID-free, if we looked at allowing individuals who are certified as being immune to COVID-19 we could go beyond establishing only travel bubbles.

Quantitative Immunity Testing, where we can accurately determine whether or not a person is immune to COVID-19, is key to re-enabling wider international travel while providing assurance that people crossing our borders without quarantining are not risking the health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works in New Zealand.

Take a look at our video to learn more about how immunity testing will work in high-volume locations such as airports.