New Zealand rejects call to restart flights to Australia

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand rejected calls by business leaders on Thursday to restart flights to Australia within a month. New Zealand says it’s too short a timeframe.

An Australian and New Zealand business lobby group said it intended to take a proposal to governments this week to kick off a travel bubble between the pair’s capital cities with a test flight as soon as July 1.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said no plans had been agreed as the two countries continue to work on a blueprint to resume travel, adding that date “was too early.”

“It will be over to the Australians more than us because they have got the federal system and they are still not flying interstate,” Peters said. He added, it was unlikely the first flights would be the Wellington-Canberra route, given there were more populated cities in each country.

“I have nothing against Canberra but I am for mass population movement by way of demand rather than capital cities,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this month that September was a more realistic date for the resumption of flights.

Falling numbers of active and new coronavirus cases in both countries have paved the way for the proposed easing of travel restrictions. New Zealand reported no new COVID-19 cases for a 13th consecutive day on Thursday and has just one active case. Australia has reported daily single digit and low double digit numbers of new cases in recent weeks and has 490 active cases, with just 25 people in hospital.

Olusola Akintonde