A travel bubble that includes Fiji with Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance - Sayed-Khaiyum

A travel bubble that includes Fiji with Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance - Sayed-Khaiyum

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 22/05/2020
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [image: Fijian Govt]

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says a travel bubble that includes Fiji alongside Australia and New Zealand would do far more good than any aid or assistance.

Fiji wants to join Australia and New Zealand's plans for a coronavirus-safe travel bubble, proposing a restart to South Pacific tourism and temporary worker programs.

Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this month agreed to create a trans-Tasman tourism zone, allowing flights between the two countries as soon as coronavirus lockdowns are eased.

Sayed-Khaiyum has proposed Fiji be included, taking advantage of any move to restart international travel more than a month after Fiji's last confirmed COVID-19 case.

He told The Australian Financial Review the country was on the way to eliminating local community-based transmission, having successfully used border closures, aggressive contact tracing, isolation rules and World Health Organisation-certified testing.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji is also developing a bluetooth-based contact tracing application, based on the COVIDSafe app designed for the Australian government.

He says we embarked on the largest health mobilisation campaign in Fijian history, with nearly 95 per cent of our population screened by medical teams going door to door to take temperatures and check for symptoms.

Sayed-Khaiyum says we’re incredibly grateful for the help of our larger regional neighbours, Fijians yearn to swim sustainably, not just be kept afloat. The Australian Financial Review says any move to include Fiji could also help fill labour shortages in New Zealand and Australia, with the Fijian government also eager to attract manufacturing and supply-line businesses.

Urbis chief economist Richard Gibbs says the Australia-New Zealand bubble would boost confidence and help restore some of the AUD$19 billion two-way trade between the nations.

Ardern and Morrison have warned implementing any new travel arrangements would take months.

Australia’s Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham has said broader international travel was likely not possible for the rest of 2020.

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