Sydney / Wellington:
New Zealand and Australia are discussing the possible emergence of a "travel bubble" between the two countries, sources said Monday, although Australia has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in two weeks.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend a meeting of the Australian Coronavirus Emergency Cabinet on Tuesday, the Australian government said, fueling speculation that two-way travel may be allowed in the near future.
"The idea of a bubble with Australia was launched two weeks ago and is an example of the type of action that could take place while always ensuring public health protection," said New Zealand Secretary of State Winston Peters in one Explanation .
"Officials in both countries are reviewing all aspects of the Trans-Tasman concept and planning how this could be done more generally," added Peters.
The prospect of two-way travel was first suggested by Peters, although Ardern insisted in April that this was a "long-term goal" and would need to involve other Pacific countries.
Australia and New Zealand have both slowed the spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks to levels well below those in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
Both governments attribute their success to social distance restrictions and widespread testing.
Australia, however, reported 26 new cases on Monday, including a seven-year-old boy, the largest daily jump in two weeks. That could increase if more states report during the day. New Zealand registered no new cases on Monday for the first time since March 16.
In total, Australia had around 6,800 infections and 95 deaths, and New Zealand 1,137 cases and 20 deaths.
A New Zealand rugby league team arrived in Australia to isolate themselves on Sunday before coming to the Australian tournament after a special permit later this month. According to Peters, this could pave the way for a Trans-Tasman bubble.
Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison are expected to discuss their strategies to slow the spread of the coronavirus on Tuesday, a source familiar with the details of the meeting told Reuters.
In New Zealand, there is no contact tracking app like the one that Australia launched last week to find and inform people who have been in contact with confirmed infected people.
Just over 4 million Australians have downloaded the CovidSafe app so far, far behind Morrison's previously announced goal of 40% of the country's estimated 16 million smartphone owners.
Morrison has made broader adoption of the app a prerequisite to further simplify the stringent social distance regulations in Australia.
The increase in deaths in Australia was mainly due to an outbreak in a meat processing plant in the state of Victoria.
The infection of the seven-year-old boy in New South Wales (NSW), who closed his school in Sydney, has drawn attention to the controversial question of whether children should go to school during the outbreak.
The federal government has stated that schools should remain open because children are low-risk carriers of the virus, while some state governments have asked parents to leave children at home.
NSW will reopen the schools from next week onwards, while Victoria has asked the parents to leave the children at home by the middle of the year.
The states and territories are also moving at different speeds to remove restrictions on movement: NSW has allowed people to make home visits in groups of up to two, while Victoria has maintained her residence order until at least May 11.
"This is a struggle and … it is not easy to live like this, but none of us can assume that this is over just because we are frustrated," Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews told reporters Monday. "It is far from over. We have to stay on course."
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)