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'Cautious' approach needed on reopening borders amid Covid-19 case surges overseas – Dr Bloomfield

Recent surges in Covid-19 cases around the world mean any chance of New Zealand's borders reopening in the near future has come to a grinding halt, but it's not entirely being thrown out.

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New Zealand's internal economy is a lot more open than the rest of the world, the Director-General of Health says. Source: Breakfast

The proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble has been stymied by a significant increase of Covid-19 cases in Australia, with Victoria alone seeing 64 new cases yesterday.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says conversations are still ongoing about a bubble with Australia, but there are things to be considered.

"One of the benefits of the current arrangement we have is that we've got a fully open, essentially a domestic economy," he told TVNZ 1's Breakfast today.

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"Who would've thought people would be able to go to Super Rugby games? Even just a couple of months ago, we never could've imagined that. 

"There are many benefits of the current arrangements we have. Any efforts to open up the border need to weigh up the risks of that and the benefits of the current arrangement."

The industries currently hit hard by the remaining closures - airline, service and tourism industries - are getting funding boosts by the Government to help them adapt to the changed world, he said.

"But it's going to be a different environment for them," Dr Bloomfield says. "I think we just have to accept that for the time being."

The global number of Covid-19 cases is now at more than 10.3 million, with more than 500,000 deaths.

Dr Bloomfield says Australia's circumstances right now show "how tricky this virus is".

"[A travel bubble]'s clearly not something that anyone is going to want to rush into, either ourselves or Australia, in the first instance," he says.

"And then we look beyond Australia to the US, to many countries that have started to relax controls and they're finding the outbreak increasing again. 

"So I would say we go down that path as cautiously as we can."

The tough and early lockdown means New Zealand was able to largely restart its local economy and areas like trade are able to operate now, Dr Bloomfield says.

"It is a balancing act. The key things here are, our economy internally is very open and that's one of the fruits of our efforts from the lockdown."

New Zealand currently has 22 active Covid-19 cases, but all are in managed isolation or quarantine.

Dr Bloomfield says there's still "no evidence" of community transmission, even as the Ministry of Health chases down hundreds of people who left isolation without being tested.

Those people had already finished their 14 days isolation after arriving into New Zealand, which the health authorities maintain is the key part of preventing the virus from spreading.

"We've now found and tested 60 per cent of them, [there are] no further cases there," Dr Bloomfield says.

"I think we've got a really high level of confidence that those people present a very, very low risk out in the community."

However that confidence doesn't mean they're relaxing just yet.

"Of course we want to be really vigilant, to make sure if there are any cases in the community, from wherever, we are finding them early and then we are shutting them down, ring-fencing them and contact-tracing appropriately."

New Zealand has had a total of 1528 confirmed and probable Covid-19 cases, with 22 deaths.