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Morning Briefing April 6: Trans-Tasman bubble ready for take-off?

As New Zealand prepares to find out the finer details of the trans-Tasman travel bubble, there are concerns the country's closed borders and slower vaccine rollout will see Kiwis left behind.

Passengers on a Qantas flight (file photo). Source: Getty

New Zealanders are set to find out when a two-way trans-Tasman bubble will begin – and it could be as soon as the end of this week.

The Government is expected to reveal a start date for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand later today, with airports and airlines already set up for the bubble.  

Leading epidemiologist Michael Baker believes New Zealand is ready for the trans-Tasman arrangement but says the challenge will now be in managing the risk of the virus being imported from ‘red-zone’ countries.

Many businesses are eagerly anticipating a start date for the travel bubble, with Tourism New Zealand forecasting a billion-dollar boost for the economy once Australians are welcomed back to Aotearoa. There’s already been a surge in Australians booking New Zealand holiday homes ahead of the bubble reveal. 

And as quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel looms, attention is already turning to other locations New Zealand could soon open a travel bubble with – Stuff has looked at six other countries that could be in a similar set-up by the end of the year. 

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Is NZ being left behind?

But while New Zealand’s doors may soon open to Australia, there are concerns about the ongoing impact of the country’s closed borders and whether Kiwis might be late to a more global vaccinated travel zone party.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has responded to those concerns in this paywalled NZ Herald story, saying there’s no way to know if New Zealand is being left behind, given how little is still known about how vaccines affect transmission and their efficacy against virus variants.

Meanwhile, the closed border continues to be a headache for the country’s international education sector, with warnings the lucrative market is on the verge of collapse.

Pre-pandemic, there were 22,000 international pupils across the country. That number is now sitting at just 5000.

Schools are now worried students are going to other countries instead, causing irreversible damage to the industry. 

Cracking down on price fixing

Businesses and individuals caught ripping off consumers by price fixing or other cartel-like behaviour face jail time under a new law coming into force this week.

Until now, those found guilty of such behaviour have only faced hefty fines. But the Commerce Commission says the new seven-year jail term for cartel behaviour brings New Zealand into line with other countries. 

A cartel is where two or more businesses collude to not compete with each other. Recent local cases include Hamilton real estate agents and a Nelson pharmacy. 

Cinemas adapting to survive

Local cinemas are turning from big screens to much smaller ones as they try to survive through the pandemic. 

Small operators, like Wellington’s Roxy Cinema and Auckland’s Academy Cinema, have both introduced on demand websites to capture audiences wanting to watch movies at home, however they worry their new offerings won’t be enough.

They’re now calling for Government help to ensure movie theatres are still open for when more blockbusters begin to arrive on New Zealand shores again. 

Deadly weekend on the roads

Seven people have died on New Zealand’s roads over Easter, making it one of the deadliest tolls in a decade. All of the long weekend’s fatal crashes happened in the North Island, with several of those in the Waikato.

Last year’s Easter road toll sat at zero, however this was partly due to the country being in Level 4 lockdown at the time. 

Other news of note this morning:

- India has seen its highest daily total of Covid-19 infections, with more than 103,000 cases confirmed on Sunday. The US is the only other country to have breached 100,000 cases in a day.

- Boris Johnson has confirmed England’s next step out of lockdown can go ahead as planned, with pubs, shops, hair salons, and gyms set to reopen. 

- More than 100 people are dead as flash floods and landslides cause havoc in Indonesia.

- Florida is on the brink of a pollution catastrophe with the “imminent” collapse of a storage reservoir at an old phosphate mine. 

- While Rotoroa Island celebrates a wildlife sanctuary milestone with the release of some of the country’s most endangered birds, five kiwi have been found dead along a Northland beach following a suspected dog attack.

- The first train in the new rail service connecting Auckland and Hamilton has just left the station. 

- And Kiwi golfer Lydia Ko has shot a remarkable ten-under at the ANA Inspiration in a performance some have described as the greatest ever in the final round of a major.

And finally...

Viola Davis accepts her SAG Award. Source: Associated Press

Hollywood’s award season has continued over Zoom with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards handed out remotely in a pre-recorded ceremony yesterday.

While Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 took home the biggest prize of the night, the four big individual awards all went to actors of colour for the first time.

Viola Davis nearly fell off her chair as she was named Best Actress, while Chadwick Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted his Best Actor award on his behalf.