The coronavirus outbreak in New Zealand has not been as severe as expected. Due to the isolated location of the country and the rapid intervention of the authorities, the virus has led to a minimal number of deaths. Now that Australia, too, is getting a better grip on the outbreak, both countries are looking into the possibilities of reopening the borders.
The deal was proposed mainly for economic reasons. Like many other countries in the world, New Zealand and Australia are struggling with the consequences of the severe lockdowns. Recessions are looming, and by opening the borders, trade between the two countries can pick up again. In addition, tens of thousands of travellers will also be able to cross the border again, which will benefit the tourism industry in both countries. Most of the tourists who visit New Zealand each year come from Australia and vice versa.
The deal will be exclusive, which means that both New Zealand and Australia will not be allowed to make deals with other countries regarding tourism or trade. More than half a million New Zealanders live in Australia, and 75,000 Australians live in New Zealand. This measure will therefore, among other things, allow families to visit each other.
Other countries possibly added
Although, for the time being, the agreement only applies to New Zealand and Australia, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is already looking into the possibility of extending it to other countries in due course. The main criterion for countries to qualify is to be able to demonstrate that they have full control of the coronavirus outbreak in their own country. At the moment, countries such as Taiwan and South Korea have the greatest chance of this, but there is also the possibility that countries on other continents will eventually be able to conclude similar deals with New Zealand.
The current situation for European countries: travelling and visas
For the time being, this seems a long way off for European countries. Unlike countries such as South Korea or Taiwan, the effects of Covid-19 in the west have been much more severe. Most European countries have to deal with tens of thousands of infections, resulting in thousands of deaths. It will therefore take much longer for these countries to fully control the situation.
European travellers will therefore continue to be subject to New Zealand's current travel ban for some time to come. European travellers will not be allowed to enter the country, even if they have a valid visa. The NZeTA visa, the most popular tourist visa for New Zealand, can still be applied for, but cannot currently be used to enter the country.
The deal between New Zealand and Australia can serve as inspiration for other countries. For example, the USA and Canada have already made plans to reopen the borders, and similar agreements will probably be made between European countries.