Covıd-19, Coronavirus, New Zealand, Flying

Covıd-19, Coronavirus

Commentary: NZ has brought COVID-19 to heel and is thinking hard about opening up travel

Commentary: NZ has brought COVID-19 to heel and is thinking hard about opening up travel

1/8/2020 1:29:00 AM

Commentary: NZ has brought COVID-19 to heel and is thinking hard about opening up travel

New Zealand has to decide how best to open air travel including whether it should be restricted to certain types of travellers like foreign ...

Indeed, the country has the lowest death rate from COVID-19 in the OECD (with only 22 deaths) and total weekly deaths declined during the lockdown.On the economic side, the government instituted a major spending programme to support businesses, supplement the incomes of employees and create new jobs. The economy appears to have largely bounced back to near normal after the lockdown period.

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On the downside, unemployment has increased with a rise in jobseeker support benefits, with business confidence and the New Zealand trade weighted index slightly down.On the upside, official data show that monthly earnings are up, the New Zealand stock exchange is up and the value of key exports such as dairy, meat and fruit have increased relative to previous time periods.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she will try to help two New Zealand Warriors players who may get stranded in Australia AFP/Marty MELVILLENew Zealand features on all international travel “green lists” that allow its business travellers to visit nearly every other country without quarantine requirements. headtopics.com

WHETHER AND HOW TO REOPEN AIR TRAVELWhen thinking about the longer term, New Zealand appears to have three broad options in terms of how it engages with the outside world.The first option is to sit tight and maintain very stringent border controls. This seems the most likely approach the government will take over the coming months, with only New Zealanders and a few essential workers being let into the country.

Those who do enter the country undergo 14 days of quarantine at the border. Under this regime there is only a very small risk of outbreaks that can be controlled using established measures such as contact tracing and mass masking at the regional or national level.

LISTEN: Retrenchment: What is fair compensation, clear communication and empathy in letting people go?The “sit tight” option means putting more economic stress on the education sector that is currently missing international students and on a tourism sector used to benefiting from international visitors.

But this is somewhat cushioned by domestic tourism, making up 60 per cent of the tourism market. And international tourism is largely suspended for all countries, regardless of New Zealand’s border restrictions.The second option is to carefully open up to more travellers and migrants from other nations. This option could see a return of international students, albeit with 14 days of quarantine or some variant of this involving testing and mask use in the first weeks after their arrival. headtopics.com

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COVID-19 free jurisdictions in the Pacific Islands and most Australian states and territories could join New Zealand and become part of a quarantine-free travel zone to grow more sustainable regional tourism.The coronavirus halted this year's Super Rugby season in March, forcing New Zealand and Australia to set up their own domestic versions, while South African clubs and the Jaguares remain sidelined. (Photo: AFP/MICHAEL BRADLEY)

READ: Commentary: Our flights of fancy have stopped but were they all that romantic anyway?But careful risk management would be needed at every step of this process — any failures resulting in outbreaks might trigger strong public and political demands to revert to tighter border controls.

The third option is to fully open borders if the cost-benefit calculation changes. This option seems remote at present because an effective vaccine against COVID-19 appears relatively distant.It remains unknown whether or not there will be an adequate uptake of such a vaccine among the population, although vaccination could be made a requirement for those travelling to New Zealand.

MOVING INTO A DIFFERENT STRATEGYThe prospect of developing a treatment that substantially reduces the severity and death rate of COVID-19 also seems unlikely in the near future.But if this development did occur — and the benefits of participating in any major reactivation of international tourism were considered large enough — then New Zealand might pivot away from its current elimination strategy. headtopics.com

It could shift to a “suppression strategy” where a low circulation of the virus is tolerated. But suppression can still come with large economic downsides in that consumer confidence drops markedly when the virus is known to be circulating.READ: Commentary: SGX sees boom in retail investments. But can it last?

For example, the downturn in the Swedish economy (with no lockdown) has been similar to that of Denmark, a country that imposed a lockdown and had a much lower death rate.These three options need to be carefully assessed by policy-makers considering the implications for health and well-being, socioeconomic inequalities and the overall economy.

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Authorities: 'Unlikely' traveller from NZ contracted COVID-19 while in transit at Changi AirportAuthorities in Singapore said that it is “unlikely” that a traveller from New Zealand was infected with COVID-19 during his stopover transit at Changi Airport en route to South Korea.

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