"Compared to Covid-19 vaccination efforts, efforts on getting quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel started have been underwhelming."

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“Compared to Covid-19 vaccination efforts, efforts on getting quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel started have been underwhelming.”

OPINION: Forgive me father for I have sinned. I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with something Judith Collins said today. More specifically, that New Zealand should waste no time in opening up borders to Australian travellers.

Let me preface this by an admission that I am a Kiwi living in Melbourne, and that I admire New Zealand’s success in managing the pandemic.

I haven’t seen my relatives in NZ for over a year, including a niece I am yet to meet. But I am fortunate. The prospect of quarantine-free travel travel to NZ is more important to Aussie-based Kiwis with unstable employment or sick relatives.

June 2020 was an exciting time. Scientists had identified several promising Covid-19 vaccine candidates and the New Zealand government first teased the idea of a trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: National says border with Australia should be opened now
* Covid-19: National leader Judith Collins says vaccination for border workers should happen ‘as a matter of urgency’
* The trans-Tasman bubble is dead for now: here is what needs to happen instead

Here in Melbourne of course, the following months took a devastating turn. It took four agonising months of mandatory masks, restricted movement from our homes, not visiting sick friends and strict curfews to crush a hideous second wave. And crush it we did.

Covid-19 community cases are now easily managed by snap-lockdowns, and life has returned to a ‘Covid-19 normal’.

When first proposed, the logistical challenges of establishing a travel bubble with Australia were understandable.

It has been eight months since the idea was first proposed. In the same time scientists have executed phase III trials for dozens of vaccine candidates, and vaccination efforts are underway.

It’s March 2021 and Australia and New Zealand both have the pandemic well and truly under control. Not only is quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand not possible, there simply seems no prospect of it happening any time soon.

We should regard the NZ government as the ‘scientists’ of policy making, and the trans-Tasman bubble an experiment. They have made no breakthroughs, and tried very little. Currently the trans-Tasman bubble wouldn’t pass peer review.

Compared to Covid-19 vaccination efforts, efforts on getting quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel started have been underwhelming.

What about Australia closing its borders to New Zealand at short notice following the two lockdowns this year? Can Australia be trusted when they introduce such uncertainty to Kiwis travelling here? Was Jacinda Ardern’s ‘disappointment’ justified, and should this have stalled progress on the bubble? I’m sorry, but no.

STUFF

National Party leader Judith Collin says New Zealand should open its borders to Australia immediately.

Australian states close their borders with one another with little to no notice when outbreaks occur. This is to prevent masses escaping snap-lockdowns, therefore making Covid restrictions more effective.

As a Kiwi living in Melbourne, Ardern’s ‘disappointment’ felt like a kick in the guts, given that I haven’t been allowed quarantine-free travel to New Zealand since April last year.

Judith Collins was right in suggesting that New Zealand should adopt the same flexible approach that Australia has to New Zealanders.

At this stage, if you were to test negative for Covid-19 in a state that has had 0 community cases for weeks or months you should be allowed to visit your home Aotearoa. Simple as that.