November 29, 2021

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We travel freely again between Australia and New Zealand

A woman hugs a family member before leaving for New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on April 19, 2021 (SAEED KHAN / AFP)

“Hooray bubbles!” (In French: “Viewless bubbles!”). Passengers can now read one of the greeting signs at Auckland Airport in New Zealand. The first flight landed in Sydney, Australia on Monday morning, April 19. And as promised: no health tests.

This “bubble” is a test, especially for European countries that plan to gradually reopen their borders this summer. Was Lots of emotions At the airports concerned, everything was closed for 400 days in the Australia-New Zealand direction, i.e. for more than a year. However, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are foreigners in Australia and in normal times, they make frequent trips as there is only a three-hour flight. Many of them have not seen their loved ones for more than a year. Since Sunday, April 18, some have not hesitated to sleep in front of Sydney Airport.

The aim is to revive the economies of both countries. First of all, this is good news for airlines: Jetstar, Air New Zealand, Qantas. Since the end of April, 400 flights a week have been announced between the two neighbors. The boss of Air New Zealand talks about one “Economic Renaissance” For his company. There is also the idea of ​​saving the winter tourism season which will start in New Zealand soon. Tourism is a crucial resource for the country. Australian tourists alone account for 40% of foreigners visiting New Zealand. On the other hand, it is 15%, which is not too low for the Australian economy.

In both countries, especially in New Zealand, all of this is possible by controlling the epidemic. There are only 26 deaths and 2,600 cases in the country, thanks to the drastic measures initiated by its Prime Minister Jacinta Artern. The results are slightly lower in Australia, but still relatively good: 910 deaths, 29,000 cases. We are far from European or American figures. Both countries have one heel, which is the vaccine. It rarely started: 2% of people in New Zealand received at least one dose, only 0.5% in Australia, and 20% on average in Europe.

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Suddenly, the New Zealanders are a little skeptical. According to opinion polls, almost half of the population opposes opening the bubble for fear of finding the virus land in their archipelago. However, the idea of ​​these two countries is to gradually create other bubbles, Especially with Asian countries known to control the epidemic: Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea. Or with smaller states in the Pacific, such as the Tuvalu Islands. In the same region of the world, another archipelago, a little further north, Palau, formed a bubble last week, with Taiwan, without restraint, without isolation. Necessarily, The whole planet is watching These experiments with care, reopening these progressive frontiers.