While all eyes have been on an international travel bubble with New Zealand, a corridor with Japan may be happening sooner than expected.
Addressing media on Friday following the fortnightly National Cabinet meeting in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that following a virtual meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe earlier this week, there may well be a travel bubble of sorts between both nations.
Mr Morrison said that while international travel – including a corridor across the ditch – had “no imminent starting date”, he was optimistic about reopening to Japan in the near future.
“It is an issue of interest in terms of how we can engage again with the rest of the world but … be very patient about that.
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“It is a topic which Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and I discussed last night, and it is pleasing to know that Japan would be seeing Australia as a potential place where there might be opportunities to reopen some very, very restricted and limited forms of travel.”
Mr Morrison said the travel would likely be for industries such as science, however flagged there was “still quite a bit of way to go” to develop such corridors.
It is understood Mr Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be having a meeting to discuss arrangements around the trans-Tasman travel bubble, which has been in discussion between both nations since early May.
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“There is no imminent starting date,” Mr Morrison said of the corridor across the ditch.
“There is still a lot more work to be done to get to a point of having a trans-Tasman safe travel zone. We discussed that today at National Cabinet about what states and territories could or would participate in … and there is a bit more work to do there obviously (with) the Victorian situation.
“But the fact that Australia cannot have international flights is damaging to our economy.”
Earlier this month, Ms Ardern said that while her “heart goes out to Victoria”, she hopes a bubble across the ditch would still be on the horizon.
During an interview on local radio last week, Ms Ardern addressed the highly anticipated bubble between Australia and New Zealand was in the works, but that a certain target needs to be reached before an agreement can happen.
Ms Ardern said the biggest challenge that both nations face in opening the borders to each country sits with how to stop transiting passengers intermingling with others at airports.
“When it comes to the future … we are in a huge period of uncertainty,” she Newstalk ZB’s radio host Kerre McIvor.
“We won’t be seeing the borders opening … quarantine-free travel … for the near future. We are working as quickly as we can on options around quarantine-free travel with Australia, so that’s an opportunity that is on the horizon and that is real, but then beyond that we are having to plan around some great unknowns.”
As part of Australia’s National Cabinet meeting on Friday, Mr Morrison announced international arrivals will be capped at around 4000 passenger arrivals each week – which is a reduction by more than half.
Mr Morrison said the measure would enable resources used to accommodate return travellers in hotel quarantine to be moved elsewhere.
He said that the reduction of inbound flights would make it more difficult for Australian citizens and residents to return home, however they’ve been given ample warning to do so.