As Monday 27 April draws to a close in New Zealand (where case numbers are reported at 1,469, with 19 deaths), the country will lift its Level-4 lockdown measures that have been in place for a month now. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asserts that it is thanks to the strict restrictions – including business and school closures, as well as social distancing – that the country has managed to stop the ‘widespread, undetected community transmission’ of Covid-19.
Commenting on the easing of restrictions, which will instead place the country under a Level-3 lockdown – whereby retailers, restaurants and schools are able to reopen on a smaller scale and around one million New Zealanders will be allowed to return to work – Ardern said: “We are opening up the economy, but we’re not opening up people’s social lives.”
New Zealand will also soon be implementing a Covid-19 contact tracing app, similar to the one that has already been rolled out in Australia, which warns users if they have more than 15 minutes of close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. Concerns over data siphoning and mass surveillance are being addressed by authorities who are aware that citizens will not use the platform if they fear their personal data is being compromised.
As for Australia, where case numbers now sit at 6,713, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria are all planning to ease restrictions in the coming weeks. In some states such as Queensland, people are now permitted to gather in groups of no more than 10 as long as they observe social distancing rules and gather for essential purposes only.
It has also come to light that Australia and New Zealand are reportedly considering a ‘travel bubble’ between their two countries should case numbers continue to ease up and once both countries have lifted their domestic travel bans.
“If there is any country in the world with whom we can reconnect with first, undoubtedly that’s New Zealand,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned against such selective openings of commercial air traffic. “We must start building a framework for a global approach,” IATA said. “When the world is ready to start travelling again, the global economy will need aviation … that will require a harmonised approach.”