The Australian government has announced a path to near-normal life across the ditch that could see the transtasman travel bubble in operation as early as July.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a three-phase approach to returning the Australian economy to as near to normal as possible, with July in prospect for the so-called 'stage three' move, although each state and territory will be allowed to move at their own pace.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp news service is reporting that "this is the stage at which a 'transtasman bubble' allowing international travel with New Zealand and Pacific islands will be discussed."

A spokesman for New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed that timing was a possibility.

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It would depend on New Zealand moving, as is widely hoped, to alert level 2 next Thursday, which would open the way to a move some time in the following six weeks to so-called level 1 – something like normal life but with closed borders. That will only be possible as long as the evidence continues that covid-19 is under control to a level regarded as 'elimination' by health experts.

Elimination means the virus could still appear from time to time but a combination of contact tracing and isolation would prevent an upsurge of community transmission.

July school holidays?

Morrison told the Australian Financial Review earlier this week that he hoped the trans-Tasman bubble could be in place in time for the July school holidays.

In New Zealand, those fall between July 4 and 19.

Morrison was, however, less optimistic in comments today about the potential for students from third countries to start coming to Australia from July.

Busy scenes at Auckland International Airport departure hall as people ready for flights on March 20. Photo / Alex Burton
Busy scenes at Auckland International Airport departure hall as people ready for flights on March 20. Photo / Alex Burton

"We are open to that, and we would be working with institutions to see how that could be achieved. But it has to be done according to those strict quarantine restrictions," the ABC quoted him as saying.

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New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson poured cold water on the hopes of some in this country's international education sector that foreign students could start coming to New Zealand from mid-year, as long as they underwent the same 14-day strict quarantine applied to New Zealanders returning from overseas.

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However, Robertson said current border restrictions would rule that out and encouraged international education providers to look to 2021 for a reopening of an industry that once turned over $5 billion a year and was New Zealand's fourth-largest source of export revenues.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website