A trans-Tasman tourism bubble may go ahead without Victoria after the state recorded a record number of coronavirus cases.
Australia could approve plans for a travel bubble with New Zealand on a state-by-state basis, federal tourism minister Simon Birmingham said on Thursday.
The plan to ease border restrictions between the two countries is on hold as Victoria and New South Wales battle through a second wave of COVID-19.
The Morrison government previously said Australia would only enter into a travel agreement if state borders were open and all residents had access.
But Senator Birmingham said he hoped the plan could move forward ‘at some point this year,’ according to the Australian Financial Review.
‘If New Zealand was ready to move and the rest of country in Australia was ready to move – but we had this quarantine still in place around Victoria – well that’s an idea that’s worth entertaining,’ he said at a Tourism and Transport Forum summit.
‘[The government would] see if we can manage to work it out with the Kiwis so they can travel safely to Sydney, Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.’
But comments made by Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran last week suggest the plan may not go ahead until 2021.
‘[The travel bubble] felt a little bit closer eight weeks ago,’ he said.
‘Now it feels that possibly, that maybe, at best, [it could come at] the end of this year, and probably more likely next year.’
Victoria recorded 723 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday with 13 deaths – more than double Wednesday’s 295 infections and far exceeds the state’s previous record of 532 cases on Monday.
Health authorities in NSW are bracing for a second wave as coronavirus clusters as cases pop up in Sydney’s densely populated eastern suburbs.
NSW recorded an additional 18 infections on Thursday. Two of the newly diagnosed cases are returned travellers currently in mandatory hotel quarantine.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will ban all visitors from Sydney from Saturday after two women with coronavirus dodged quarantine.
There are fears Australians may not be able to travel abroad until 2021 after Qantas recently pulled international flights have been pulled from its website until further notice, including routes to New Zealand.
Flights to New Zealand are now unavailable until September 1 after the nation’s flagship carrier made an agreement with the government to ease the strain on quarantine hotels.
New Zealand has only had two confirmed cases of the virus in the last 24 hours, with all new arrivals quarantined at the border.