It was simpler times.
In April, coronavirus numbers in Australia and New Zealand were considered low enough that the possibility of a travel bubble across Tasman was a moot point to keep the twin economies fluctuating, albeit at a slower pace.
But momentum for this idea waned when the virus infiltrated Melbourne hotels and spread throughout Victoria.
Later, New Zealand’s “COVID-free” celebrations were suspended when new cases were detected in Auckland.
So where exactly are we with the bubble? And is there any possibility that it will fly soon?
What is the latest?
At a national cabinet meeting last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the idea again, with big caveats.
He noted that a potential travel bubble could succeed between regions where there is no known outbreak, which could allow travelers from New Zealand to land in Australia without the need for quarantine.
“For example, the entire South Island, this is a region where there is no COVID,” he said.
He said about 15 per cent of the returning Australians came from New Zealand.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has estimated that 36,000 Australian citizens are living abroad, 27,000 of whom would like to return home.
From September 28, 2,000 more people will be allowed to gradually enter Australia, up from the original limit of 4,000.
The cap is set to last until October 24.
What was said previously?
Given the sharp rise in the cumulative coronavirus cases in Australia, Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern poured cold water on the idea of opening a full-blown bubble anytime soon.
New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters first proposed the idea of a bubble on April 16.
The bubble was officially discussed later in the National Cabinet in May, when virus numbers appeared low on both sides of Tasman.
Border disputes between Australian states reinforced the idea the first time, while the Victoria Disease outbreak dropped the idea the second time.
In early August, Ms Ardern told AM New Zealand that levels of community transmission in Australia were too high to revive the idea of a bubble.
“One of the things that we said as part of our criteria is that wherever we have quarantine-free travel, you have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days,” she said.
She added that the idea could be put on a “quiet fire for several months.”
How will the new idea work?
It is unclear at this point.
A spokesperson for the prime minister told ABC that the exact details were still being worked out, and as such, the government had “no other details to share publicly at this stage.”
In the meantime, what we can do is look at criteria that may be adhered to in a new chart, such as what the word “outbreak” actually means.
The Australian Health Thesaurus defines this as “a sudden increase in the incidence of disease at a specific time and place”.
Last month, Auckland returned to lockdown after the outbreak was detected, and there are currently a total of 67 cases on the North Island, according to data from the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
Using the prime minister’s rough blueprint, travelers from New Zealand’s South Island will now be able to travel to Australia without having to quarantine upon arrival.
But any future bubble scenario will also depend on how broad the geographically defined outbreak is, which could be at the city, city, or regional level.
How does it feel to fly from New Zealand to Australia now?
Expensive, sometimes long.
Due to restrictions imposed on foreign arrivals to Australia, and the downturn in air travel caused by the epidemic, fares have skyrocketed.
The pandemic also led to the demise of the Australian carrier, Tiger, while Virgin Australia was placed in voluntary management.
Accessing direct flights between Australian and New Zealand cities was more difficult, providing some travelers with high fares and long stops.
According to Google Flights, getting a seat on the next available one-way flight from Auckland to Sydney in October costs $ 11,400 with a stopover in Malaysia and China before landing in Australia.
The average price for the following three available flights was $ 8,116 at the time of writing.
This contrasts sharply with prices in February, when Australian airlines and Air New Zealand engaged in a battle to lure people over Tasman, with prices for some of the flights from the latter as low as 69 New Zealand dollars ($ 64).
How are Australians adapting to New Zealand?
Ben, an Australian who currently lives on the North Island of New Zealand, has been in the country since June, while his partner and young children have been in the country since early March.
The local Perth citizen, who has only requested ABC to use his first name, said his family has been staying with relatives since the Australian travel ban was imposed, and they said they only expect it to last for a month.
He is one of many Australians overseas who are currently trying to keep up with evolving border restrictions and volatile flight schedules.
“It would be very helpful if the airport already had some record of upcoming flights, so people could plan their return flights a little better,” he said.
One flight to Perth from Auckland flies via Singapore, while others fly through Brisbane.
If he takes the latter, that would be like four weeks of complete quarantine, with two-week quarantines in Brisbane and Perth respectively.
He said, “For young children, it would be just a nightmare.”
He suggested that Australia do more to make things easier when they return home.
Why don’t you have an Australian representation at the airport for any flights [to Australia]Where passengers undergo nasal checks and swabs. “
This tells you if you are very transmissible [authorities] “Get the results before the flight lands and after that you can act accordingly.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Office have been contacted for comment.