Channel players that typically have to shuttle between both sides of the Tasman for business may soon be in for a reprieve from international travel restrictions, with New Zealand and Australia discussing the potential creation of a "travel bubble" between the two countries.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will take part in a meeting of Australia's emergency coronavirus cabinet on Tuesday, the Australian government said, stoking speculation that two-way travel could be permitted in the near future.
"The idea of a bubble with Australia was floated two weeks ago, and this is an example of the sort of action that could happen within it, while always ensuring the protection of public health," New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.
"Officials in both countries are considering all aspects of the trans-Tasman concept, and planning how this could happen more broadly," Peters added.
The prospect of two-way travel was first proposed by Peters, though Ardern in April insisted it was a "long-term goal" and would need to include other Pacific countries.
Australia and New Zealand have both slowed the spread of coronavirus in recent weeks to levels significantly below the those reported in the United States, Britain and Europe. Both governments attribute their success to social distancing restrictions and widespread testing.
However, Australia on Monday reported 26 new cases, including a seven-year-old boy, its biggest daily jump in two weeks. That could rise as more states report throughout the day. New Zealand recorded no new cases on Monday for the first time since March 16.
Overall, Australia has recorded around 6,800 infections and 95 deaths, and New Zealand 1,137 cases and 20 fatalities.
On Sunday, a New Zealand rugby league team arrived in Australia to self-isolate before joining Australia's tournament later this month, after receiving special permission, a move that Peters said 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 coronavirus at Tuesday's meeting, one source familiar with the details of the meeting told Reuters.
New Zealand does not have a contact tracing app like the one launched by Australia 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, well short of Morrison's previously announced target of 40 per cent of the country's estimated 16 million smartphone owners.
Morrison has made wider adoption of the app a prerequisite to further ease strict social distancing regulations in Australia.