With the government keen on mapping a way out of lockdown, the option of reopening borders with Australia’s pacific neighbours is already being discussed.While Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton believes Australia’s success in containing the coronavirus is due to the swift action it took in closing its borders, he said an arrangement with New Zealand is a logical first step in lifting restrictions. Only then could Australia look at other nations within the region that are enjoying the same success.
“You could look at an arrangement with New Zealand given they are at a comparable stage as we are in this fight against this virus,” Mr Dutton said.
But, he said it was very hard to see how Australia could open up its borders with other countries like the United States and United Kingdom at this point in time.
“That will be some time off,” he said.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern discussed the issue last week, but Ms Ardern played down the idea.
“Our current border restrictions and quarantine arrangements are the most important protections we have to stop the virus re-entering New Zealand and taking off again, so they will only be lifted when we are confident it is safe to do so,” a spokesperson for Ms Ardern said.
“While nothing is going to happen immediately, the idea has merit as something that might be possible down the track.”
NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has previously suggested New Zealand might open its borders to Australia sooner than the rest of the world, but only if both countries continued to successfully manage the pandemic.
“Our figures with Australia, it’s almost as if we’ve got a trans-Tasman bubble between our two countries, and if the figures keep on going that way, then that is a serious possibility,” he told the NZ Herald.
Biosecurity measures are also likely to be permanently upgraded after the COVID-10 crisis ends.
Mr Dutton says his department is looking at what Australia’s border system would look like in six to 12 months time as a result of the pandemic.
The priority of the Australian Border Force will continue to be to keep terrorists and people of bad character out of the country, as it has been since 9/11.
But he believes there will be an overlay of biosecurity in years to come at Australian airports as a result of COVID-19.
“We don’t know what will happen next flu season, we don’t know whether there will be another pandemic in 12 months or 12 years time,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“We need to make sure we use the technology we have got available and look at assessing that threat.”
– with wires.