So far all travel bubble attempts have had all the flaccid buoyancy of a prematurely released child’s party balloon, with some tacked-together versions in Europe proving disastrously ineffective and leading to damaging setbacks in the containment of COVID-19.
Back in April, the concept of a trans-Tasman travel bridge excited much optimism and excitement, all dashed by our own series of setbacks, including the pandemic plight of Victoria.
A token, partial bubble, allowing New Zealanders to visit NSW, the ACT and the Northern Territory, has the significant catch of a compulsory 14-day quarantine period for Kiwis on their return and no ability for Australians to cross the ditch.
A sudden upsurge in community-acquired cases in NSW has probably pushed the launch date of the trans-Tasman bubble even further back. Alongside that, the prospect of the tourism and airline industries’ survival, devoid of government bailouts, has become even less certain.
Now Singapore and Hong Kong, two destinations which have performed well in containing COVID-19 and which are hugely reliant on tourism, have, in the conspicuous absence of a vaccine, announced their own quarantine-free, rapid testing-dependent travel bubble which may well pre-empt the trans-Tasman equivalent.
Singapore, South Korea and Japan, with their admirable COVID-19 records, have been identified by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, noticeably short on any detail, as other likely travel bubble partners for Australia.
So, in reality, what will the witch’s brew-like ingredients need to be to not merely successfully launch a travel bubble but also to maintain one?