Jack Tame: When is the right time to reopen the bubble?

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 24 Jul 2021, 4:14PM
(Photo / Kamran Jebreili)
(Photo / Kamran Jebreili)

Jack Tame: When is the right time to reopen the bubble?

Author
Jack Tame,
Publish Date
Sat, 24 Jul 2021, 4:14PM

It was the right decision to open the Trans-Tasman bubble and it’s the right decision to close the Trans-Tasman bubble.

I don’t think any of us was particularly surprised at Cabinet electing to shut things down for a couple of months. Disappointed? Sure. It sucks for those of us with family on either side of the Tasman Sea. I was fortunate to visit Australia last month and I had been hoping to go over again in September. I don’t know when I’ll see my brother or Grandma next.

But given just how infectious the Delta strain is proving to be, and given our low levels of vaccination, it’s a responsible and entirely reasonable call to close things down and reduce the threat of importing infections.

Remember – this is the way the bubble was designed to function. From the word go, there was risk for anyone who decided to go to Australia. You bought a ticket. You chose to travel. You assumed that risk. I actually think the people who’ve come back from New South Wales and into MIQ should consider themselves very lucky they haven’t had to pay for the privilege when everyone else does.

When the Government established the bubble, the Delta strain wasn’t causing nearly as many issues as it is right now. They made the decision with the best information they had available. You could argue they actually could have opened much earlier with a similar level of risk. They’re now acting on the best information they have available in shutting it all down.

I also recall that when the bubble opened, National promised not to try and score political points if it was later forced to close. The opposition has stayed true to its word. They think it makes sense to shut down.

There are valuable lessons in all of this. New South Wales has neatly demonstrated just how quickly things get out of hand with the Delta strain when you don’t lock down hard, especially when a majority of the population hasn’t yet been vaccinated.

We can use this downtime to consider what changes we should make to the bubble when it does come time to reopen.

Should we establish special short-term quarantine facilities for people travelling in the bubble?

Should we only let vaccinated people travel without MIQ?

And maybe the most obvious question: Given the bubble will be closed until at least the end of September and we’re all supposed to have had a jab by the end of this year, does it actually make sense to reopen the bubble before all adult Australians and all adult New Zealanders have had access to a vaccine?

For the sake of a few months, I reckon a majority of Kiwis will be quite happy to see it closed until Christmas.