Pressure increasing on lowering to Level 1 and trans-Tasman travel

Opening up travel between New Zealand and Australia has been proposed as both countries appear to have Covid-19 well under control. It looks unlikely to happen before New Zealand drops to Level 1 restrictions (whatever they may end up being), and Cabinet are not due to consider lowering to level 1 for a week and a half and it has been indicated (on Monday) it may be up to 4 weeks away.

Winton Peters has been talking about a Trans-Tasman bubble for over a month, and is now breaking ranks with Cabinet and says he wants one “yesterday”, but Jacinda Ardern has indicated that September is more likely

24 April: Trans-Tasman bubble could start ‘more quickly than we think’ – Peters

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says some businesses could be saved if the country creates a trans-Tasman bubble – and he’s open to starting on a state-by-state basis.

Fifty-five per cent of tourists who visit New Zealand come from Australia and the foreign affairs minister said it therefore made sense to start planning how a trans-Tasman travel bubble might work.

“So, it requires us to put our best minds together here and in Australia. I’ve spoken to the Foreign Minister in Australia about the need for us to start thinking about that now,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is on board and said it made sense to work with New Zealand on any relaxing of the border restrictions.

“I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate [for border openings] and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had,” Morrison said.

Wednesday: Hopes to get trans-Tasman bubble flying by July

A high-powered group investigating opening up trans-Tasman travel amid the coronavirus pandemic hopes to put its proposal to politicians by early June, and get people travelling by the July school holidays.

The ‘Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group’ is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Started by Auckland Airport, and co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the team of 40 experts have been working for the past two weeks on recommendations for the re-opening of borders between Australia and New Zealand.

ANZLF co-chair Ann Sherry said the group wanted to focus on getting it right first on the Tasman before opening up to the Pacific and other destinations.

“We’ve got an early June objective to get recommendations back to government, but we’re testing it with government as we go along to make sure our thinking isn’t divergent at this stage of the process.”

Once the systems were considered by decision-makers, she was optimistic the trial might be completed in time for the July school holidays, she said.

Prime Minister Ardern was non-committal:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not set a date for how soon the bubble could be set up, saying both countries would need to be comfortable.

Ardern spoke with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday about the proposal, and said on Wednesday that there was enthusiasm on both sides of the Tasman.

The two countries were at different stages of easing restrictions, and New Zealand had had a bit more time to see how progress was going in stamping out Covid-19, she said.

“I’d say good work is taking place and it won’t be too long before we will be ready.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peters is pushing different aspirations:

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has broken rank with Labour, saying that quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel should already be allowed out of one side of his mouth, but has a different story out of the other.

However, Peters told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle briefing on Wednesday that opening the trans-Tasman border was urgent for both economies, but the two countries were not yet ready.

“If the decision was made today could we start tomorrow, I’m going to be honest and say no – but we’re working on it with the greatest of urgency now so that if the decision was made sooner rather than later, we’d be off and hopefully got every contingency foreseeable and imaginable covered,” Peters said.

Travel isn’t even allowed between states in Australia so opening up to New Zealand looks unlikely right now.

Yesterday in Parliament Winston Peters says he’d like to see trans-Tasman bubble implemented ‘yesterday’

National’s deputy leader Nikki Kaye questioned Mr Peters, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister in question time today, over recent disagreements within the Government on Covid-19 restriction timelines.

“Has the Foreign Minister (Winston Peters) advocated to her (Jacinda Ardern) or to the Cabinet to proceed faster around the trans-Tasman bubble,” Ms Kaye asked.

Mr Peters gave a direct response to the question.

“Take a wild guess,” he said with a wry smile.

Ms Kaye then pressed him whether he had pushed for a date that the travel bubble should come into force.

“Yesterday,” he replied before once again taking his seat.

But that may just be typical Peters posturing to an audience.

Margy Osmond, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, told the Sydney Morning Herald they expected it to commence “as early as September”.

When asked about this, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “that could be realistic”.

“I have been careful about putting down specific dates, but have been very focused on making sure we are ready, then we can move and we won’t be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders,” she told media today.

Opening borders is dependent on moving to level 1.

ACT MP David Seymour has accused Peters of breaching Cabinet rules – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters accused of breaching Cabinet rules in revealing Jacinda Ardern’s views on level 1 move

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Peters – NZ First leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister – openly talked about conversations had in Cabinet.

Asked if New Zealand had been in level 2 for too long, he said: “My party made it very clear we thought that. And the Prime Minister has actually admitted that at the Cabinet meeting – she said it.”

According to the Cabinet Manual – the set of rules for ministers, enforced by the Prime Minister – ministers are not allowed to talk about what happens within Cabinet meetings.

“Discussion at Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings is informal and confidential,” it says.

“Ministers and officials should not … disclose or record the nature or content of the discussions or the views of individual ministers or officials expressed at the meeting itself.”

Seymour said that by saying what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Cabinet on live radio this morning, Peters was in breach of this rule.

It is up to the Prime Minister as to whether or not a minister is disciplined for breaking the Cabinet Manual rules.

Ardern has a record of turning a blind eye to what Peters and Shane Jones do.

Regardless of this political posturing, the public may be adding to the pressure to ease restrictions and get back closer to normal. There have been no new Covid cases in New Zealand for a week, and there are now only 8 active cases, all in the  Auckland region. The case for continuing restrictions will get increasingly hard for the Government to maintain.

The country has virtually eliminated Covid – but the big risk now is if it comes back into the country when border restrictions are eased.

And while Australian Covid numbers look proportionally similar to here The virus figure Australian officials are most worried about

…despite the country’s achievements in overcoming the worst of the virus, there is still one concerning figure looming over its recovery.

Figures released by the Department of Health show that 732, or about 10.3 per cent, of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country have been locally acquired with no contact identified.

This means hundreds of people have caught the virus in Australia but the source of the infection could not be found.

That will be a concern to health officials here, and the Government says they rely on the officials for advice on easing restrictions.

But when should we at least lower to level 1 restrictions here? There has been no community transmission since early April, and business concerns are growing.

NZ Herald: Jacinda Ardern’s wriggle room on moving to alert level 1 early

Cabinet is set to look at whether New Zealand should move to level 1 on June 22, but pressure is mounting to move earlier, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying it should have already happened.

Yesterday a top business restructuring expert, Grant Graham, whose firm KordaMentha partner makes money from insolvency work, pleaded for a move to level 1 to save “unjustifiable” job losses.

Yesterday was the sixth straight day of no new Covid-19 cases, and there have been no community transmission cases – whose branches are harder to trace and isolate – since the beginning of April.

It is possible that there will be no active cases in New Zealand by Cabinet’s D-day on June 22.

Meanwhile Stats NZ revealed that the number of filled jobs plummeted by a record 37,500 in April.

The decimated industries of tourism, hospitality, and events are hoping for an earlier move to level 1, where there will be no physical distancing requirements and no restrictions on numbers at social gatherings.

Ardern said on Monday that Cabinet would consider the settings of level 2 in 10 days, on June 8, and it will meet no later than on June 22 to look at whether the country could move to level 1.

She reiterated that timetable yesterday, saying it was based on Bloomfield’s advice.

But Cabinet could decide, based on his advice, to open up level 2 even more after June 8, or consider moving to level 1 before June 22.

“We have given us some space, just in case,” Ardern said yesterday.

Ardern seems to have one eye on health advice, hopefully she has one eye on deteriorating business news, and both eyes on the election.

June 22 looks a long way away as we move close to no active cases in the country.

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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  29th May 2020

    Muller shamefully invisible in all this. Cultivating a reputation for being useless?

  2. Gezza

     /  29th May 2020

    When I was finally allowed to collect ma’s personal effects from the Rest Home, after that being verboten for many weeks, it was clear that there was absolutely no good reason they couldn’t have been released to me weeks ago.

    The Administrator agreed with me that while elders in her work area – & any other elders & people with breathing or immunosuppressed conditions etc who were known to be high risk for death – needed to be protected with great care taken over handwashing & perhaps social distancing in their case – they’re just as vulnerable to seasonal flus & colds.

    And that the lockdown of the whole country for weeks, and restrictions on the whole population – creating job losses & business closures – seems to be a massive & ecomically damaging overreaction.

  3. David

     /  29th May 2020

    Its a manufactured dispute for electoral purposes and the uselessness that is Muller has been drowned out by it. Well played the media are wall to wall with it.

  4. artcroft

     /  29th May 2020

    “But that may just be typical Peters posturing to an audience.”


    • I have only been to one political meeting of his (I can’t remember why) and left very early after hurling a few well-aimed epithets. He was slagging off other parties with jokes that were ancient and not very amusing when they were new, I had never heckled before; but he was asking for it.

  5. Gerrit

     /  29th May 2020

    Maybe Ardern is having a Lange like “cup of tea” moment. Sure as heck she ain’t doing much except kicking the can down the road.

    The getting out was always going to be the hardest part, I don’t see much effort at all in how the transition will be complete back to level 0.

    Five bullet points to consider

    1-, The virus is 96% non fatal
    2-, The virus vaccine is still many years away (in fact similar viruses have not had vaccines constructed to curb their spread after research spanning 30 years (Think HIV, Sars, Swine Flue, Spanish Flu, etc.)
    3-, With the anti vaxx movement growing daily, the chance of a “herd immunisation” cure is pretty low. It is worth noting that the 2009 Swine Flu was contracted by, and killed about as many people in New Zealand (come in from Mexico) as the Corvid 19 Flu this year. 3,175 cases and 19 deaths. Yet no panic, no lockdown, no worries.
    4-, Contact tracing is a complete waste of time. No standard app (3 in use currently with no commonality). Paper trace is mostly fraudulant and useless (to many Mickey and Minny Mouses – Jacinda Ardern is listed simultaneously on visitor records from The Bluff to The Cape).
    5-, Best get used to a world where viruses abound, including this and possible new ones. There will be no magic cure.

    • Alan Foster

       /  29th May 2020

      But only 29 people died in UK in 2009 from H1N1 – Covid 19, 36,000 & still rising

      • Gerrit

         /  29th May 2020

        H1N1 figures are totally depended upon testing regimes in place at the time. Cant compare the two virus toll unless the testing regime and volumes tested were the same.

        Question worth asking is the the total turnover of people dying in the UK up by 36,000? If not then the virus is not to blame. Number of people dying in the UK was 11.8 per 1000 in 1950 and in 2020 is 9.42 per 1000. Only a slight rise from the the 2019 figures of 9.39 per 1000 in 2019

        Worth a read;

        “The UK government’s scientific advisers believe that the chances of dying from a coronavirus infection are between 0.5% and 1%.

        This is lower than the rate of death among confirmed cases – which is 4% globally in WHO figures and 5% in the UK as of March 23 – because not all infections are confirmed by testing.”

        • Alan Foster

           /  29th May 2020

          Have the hospitals in UK ever been overwhelmed like this before? I know that we concentrate on the deaths but hospital admissions are very important as well.

          • Gerrit

             /  29th May 2020

            I dont know, you tell me.

            • Alan Foster

               /  29th May 2020

              No, they’ve never been overwhelmed like this before – over 100 health workers have died as well. Would have been worse without a lockdown eh?

            • Pink David

               /  29th May 2020

              “over 100 health workers have died as well”

              The NHS employees 1,280,000 people. Health workers die every single day, and always will.

          • Pink David

             /  29th May 2020

            “Have the hospitals in UK ever been overwhelmed like this before?”

            UK hospitals are at record levels of empty. They have never been so underwhelmed. Where did you get the idea they where overwhelmed?

            • Alan Foster

               /  29th May 2020

              “The UK health system is so overwhelmed that a hospital is converting all its theatres for coronavirus patients, and nurses have panic attacks because they can’t cope with the stress.

              London the UK’s worst-hit area. By mid-March, the city was reporting an “explosion” in coronavirus cases and on March 19, one hospital had run out of critical care beds, the Guardian reported.

              At University College Hospital in London, a public hospital in the country’s National Health Service (NHS), most theatres are being converted to treat coronavirus, the BBC’s Fergus Walsh reported.

              All but two patients in the hospital’s ICU have COVID-19, the hospital’s head of critical care told the BBC.”

              The above from rom various web sites.
              It may be better now but like here in NZ, other operations have been delayed.

            • Alan Foster

               /  29th May 2020

              “When Boris Johnson issued a stay-at-home order to Britons last month, he had one overriding aim: to protect the UK’s state-funded NHS from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases”.

            • Pink David

               /  29th May 2020

              “When Boris Johnson issued a stay-at-home order to Britons last month, he had one overriding aim: to protect the UK’s state-funded NHS from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases”.

              Yes. This is why the NHS send all the elderly people with Covid-19 into the rest homes, to clear the hospitals. Which have been largely empty since. The rest homes are also empty, because thousands died of Covid infected by this policy.

              You will also notice that Sweden, which has not locked down, has a health system that has not been overwhelmed.

              It was a policy driven by fear, not science.

        • Fight4nz

           /  30th May 2020

          “in 2020 is 9.42 per 1000.”

          When are these figures from? March? April? Is what you are saying that UK has lost as many lives in 1 qtr as they normally do in the whole year?

      • Pink David

         /  29th May 2020

        “But only 29 people died in UK in 2009 from H1N1 – Covid 19, 36,000 & still rising”

        28,330 people died from flu in the UK in 2014/15. Why no lockdown?

        • Alan Foster

           /  29th May 2020

          I don’t know, you tell me

        • Fight4nz

           /  29th May 2020

          So with Covid there’s a lockdown but still more deaths than by that flu. So without lockdown even more deaths from Covid. So how is it not obvious why they went to lockdown after trying to avoid it as long as possible?

    • I have read that the survival rate for Covid is 98% at least, Gerrit, and while ours is a small sample, that would be about right. 20 out of 1500 is 1.5% isn’t it ? I am no mathematician..

  6. Gezza

     /  29th May 2020

    An argument against rushing the TTB

    “The economic benefits of a trans-Tasman travel bubble may only be in the tens of millions and there is a small but real chance that the costs of implementing one too soon could be catastrophic.

    Like most people, I’d love to see such a bubble come about at a sensible time.

    But a decision by the Australian co-chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, Ann Sherry, to dangle an aggressive timetable in front of Kiwis by suggesting a trial might be completed in time for the July school holidays was not, in my view, at all constructive.

    Although that comment grabbed the headlines, ANZLF New Zealand director Fiona Cooper distanced the forum from Sherry’s desired timeline when contacted by Stuff on Thursday.

    Cooper – to her credit – said only that ANZLF would like a bubble to be in place as soon as feasible and as soon as the governments believed it was safe.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  29th May 2020

      Everyone is too gutless to say that nothing is ever safe and risks must just be managed sensibly.


      • The inanity of the sign-in rules is beyond belief.

        I can’t see why I am unlikely to catch it in a supermarket but am so much in danger from a library that I have to sign in, or in a cafe ditto. Some shops still have sign-ins; it’s tempting to sign in as Jane Marple, St Mary Mead, or S Holmes. 221B Baker St, London. It’s obligatory for bus trips, but I bet that hardly anyone does. The young Chinese man in the food court where I had lunch and I exchanged eye-rolls over this issue.

        I hadn’t thought that the two girls who were lost were breaking the law by going for the tramp in the first place, and I wonder if they’ll be charged. They could be said to have been punished enough. It would be very bad PR for Dear Leader if they were.

        • Gezza

           /  29th May 2020

          I know some Chinese people eat some pretty strange things. All I’ve ever tried is spring rolls, & those curried rice rolls. I’ll try anything once tho. What are the eye-rolls like?

  7. Fight4nz

     /  29th May 2020

    6 news reported 1 active case left tonight. 1 ‘new’ case in about 2 weeks. No community transmission found at any stage. Alert 1 – I’m with Winston.

  8. Gerrit

     /  30th May 2020

    Borders are already open (without quarantine) for those Twyford deems “critical to economic survival”. Film crews are now “critical to economic survival” but Jan and Joe public in terms of tourists or students are not.

    More Twyford follies?


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