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A Pacific bubble could be drifting further out of reach after New Zealand's quarantine fumbles caused anxiety in some island nations.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says while some of the realm countries are keen to establish travel between themselves and New Zealand, others are more hesitant.
“It's not just about New Zealand - it's about the other countries too," Ardern told The AM Show on Monday.
She told host Duncan Garner she intends to check back in with Cook Island Prime Minister Henry Puna to gauge his response to the quarantine audit.
“We spoke a few weeks ago but that was prior to the audit and prior to some of the issues that have been had there.”
The audit found managed isolation facilities to be under "extreme stress" and struggling to meet increasing demand.
Cracks in the system allowed for two women positive with COVID-19 to leave an Auckland facility and travel to Wellington. Hundreds of people have left isolation without being tested, and the Ministry of Health is still chasing some people for testing.
Despite the bumps Ardern says she will speak with Prime Minister Puna again to check his thoughts on the matter and says work will continue towards a bubble.
In order to open travel between countries without quarantine, Ardern pointed out airports would need to be separated to ensure border control staff were not interacting with people coming from infected countries into quarantine and others heading on holiday to safe countries.
“Everyone talks as if it's this very simple thing but it does take quite a lot of work,” she said.
“We know we don't have community transmission but we need to know we are not going to create issues for parts of the Pacific that do not have COVID.”
As for a travel bubble with Australia - it could be even further off. With cases in Victoria rising rapidly, Ardern says the criteria for a bubble would rely on how Australia handles it's second wave.
If states ensure their borders are controlled so cases are not spreading across the entire country, she says it could be possible for some regions to be able to enter New Zealand.
“It is possible but that is Australia's call not ours,” she said.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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