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Australians pose 'incredibly low' Covid-19 risk to NZ, but two-way bubble could create new problem — Michael Baker

New Zealand and Australia are ready for a two-way travel bubble, a leading epidemiologist says, but it comes with a risk because it will free up spots in managed isolation and quarantine to people from higher-risk countries. 

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The Otago University epidemiologist says the risk of the virus coming from Australia is “incredibly low”. Source: Breakfast

University of Otago’s Dr Michael Baker told Breakfast that Australia and Pacific Island nations had proven they are able to manage risks to Covid-19. 

Despite recent outbreaks in various states, “the real risk now of infection is incredibly low from all of Australia most of the time”, he said.  

Baker said people would need to take steps on arrival, such as downloading New Zealand’s Covid Tracer app. But he said this would be “manageable”. 

“The real challenge, the real risk, is a different one. And that is, at the moment, about 40 per cent of the people in our MIQ facilities are people from Australia who are not carrying the virus. 

“If we take them out, then suddenly we have a lot more high-risk people coming from ‘red zone’ countries.”

So if a two-way trans-Tasman bubble does open, New Zealand needs to “turn down the tap” on arrivals from higher-risk countries and make sure they are managed more carefully, Baker said. 

He said a two-way bubble would also prove to the world borders can be negotiated in a “sane” way during a pandemic. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Breakfast yesterday the Government was still trying to get a two-way trans-Tasman bubble up and running, but admitted circumstances have changed. 

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The Prime Minister said there were additional challenges, with negotiations now on a state-by-state basis. Source: Breakfast

Ardern previously promised the bubble would be in place by the end of this month. 

Officials continued to “work in earnest” on the trans-Tasman bubble, she said. 

“It's a bit more complicated now we're dealing with state-by-state rather than the starting point, which was country-by-country.”