Covid-19 NZ: Grant Robertson says other travel bubbles on the horizon

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the Government is keen to open up quarantine-free travel bubbles with other countries as vaccination rates rise.

He has not provided any firm dates however and says borders will be changed forever by Covid-19.

New Zealand has travel bubbles with Australia and the Cook Islands that are intended to allow for quarantine-free two-way travel, although the Australian bubble has been fraught with pauses.

Official documents have revealed other nations and “economies” have expressed an interest in bubbles with New Zealand, but the Government has redacted which ones. The use of the word “economy” suggests Taiwan is one of them.

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Robertson was speaking at a post-budget speech to the trans-Tasman business circle in Auckland.

He said the existing bubbles had had their challenges but “they are an important step to show that we can progressively open up quarantine free travel.”

Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

Ricky Wilson/Stuff

Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

”We are continuing to look at how we can do that with other countries, as vaccination rates rise and where it is safe to do so.”

”We have also been working with public health experts and modellers on how we can progressively and carefully move to use the increased safety provided by vaccination to reduce our reliance on strict measures such as lockdowns and mandatory managed isolation and quarantine.”

”I use the word reduce because we need to be clear that restrictions at our border will be with us for some time as the pandemic continues to evolve around the world. As Professor Sir David Skegg has said, the experience at our borders changed materially after 9/11 and so too will there be a new normal after Covid.”

“But that doesn’t mean it will remain as restrictive as it is now. There are opportunities as vaccination rates increase here and overseas to refine our approach.”

Robertson indicated that official expert advice on how to open New Zealand up would be released to the public soon, along with the Government’s proposed response to that advice.

“In the coming weeks, we will share the information and advice that we have received and give everyone an opportunity to hear directly from the experts. We will also provide the government’s proposed response to that advice, so that people can see the proposed pathway forward.”

”What I can say today is that our response will be based on ensuring our people are as protected as possible through high uptake of a reliable, safe vaccine while managing the risks of the virus entering the country through a safe, smart border.”

Robertson said New Zealand’s vaccination strategy was different to other countries as it was only using Pfizer, defending the country’s low vaccination rate compared to its global peers.

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