Australians and New Zealanders who are desperate to escape to each other's countries could soon have their wish, but passengers would need to adhere to strict travel safety protocols.
On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison formally agreed to begin work on a transtasman Covid-19 safe travel zone.
The transtasman bubble would ease travel restrictions between the two counties and be put in place once the necessary health, transport and other protocols had been developed, the prime ministers said in a joint statement.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Transtasman bubble possible as early as July
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Hobart flights on horizon if transtasman bubble takes off
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Start planning transtasman 'bubble' now, says Auckland airport chief
• The Conversation: Why a transtasman travel bubble makes a lot of sense for Australia and New Zealand
Earlier this week, the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF) created an expert panel, the Transtasman Safe Border Group, to look into the protocols, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
It will include representatives from Border Force, health authorities, quarantine authorities, airlines and airports.
The expert panel meets for the first time on Tuesday, May 12, and will spend three to four weeks discussing protocols that will be passed on to both governments.
Chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, Ann Sherry, said the two countries had managed the Covid-19 outbreak well and both wanted to re-open.
She said trust and co-operation were the essential ingredients of any easing of restrictions, as people would not book flights until they were comfortable they wouldn't get the virus while travelling.
Tourists may face pre-travel health checks and on-arrival health checks, including airport temperature readings.
Touchless immigration checks could be done electronically, without forms or documents to ensure no transferring of germs.
A "checker-board" style seating pattern on planes could also achieve social distancing as no one would be directly in front of or behind another passenger.
"Some of the things that will be done will be about public confidence," Sherry said.
"While temperature testing is an imperfect way of knowing if people are unwell, it's at least a screen."
Margy Osmond, head of the Tourism and Transport Forum, is also a member of the expert panel advising on the Australian tourism sector.
She said the panel would examine the kind of technology that could be used, how airports were set up in each country, who would be responsible for a particular type of testing, and who would burden the costs of the protocols.
She said the first flight between the countries would most likely be from Sydney to Auckland, and others would follow if the first flight went smoothly.
Osmond added as things opened up across the Tasman, they would start incrementally thinking about other places people could fly in and out of.
A safe travel zone could be expanded to include parts of Asia where the virus is under control, such as Singapore, and virus-free Pacific nations such as Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga.
After the Australia's coronavirus cabinet meeting last Tuesday, Ardern said the logistics of how the "travel bubble" would work were still being discussed.
She said the transtasman bubble would likely not include a quarantine period.
"People wouldn't travel if they had to stay on either side in quarantine for a two-week period and have to do the same when you return," she said.
"But there is still a lot of work to be done before we can progress an idea like that."
It has not been revealed when the transtasman bubble will begin, but Osmand said it would be "many months" before borders open, which Greg Lowe, the New Zealand co-chair of the ANZLF, agreed would be an "optimistic time frame".
Morrison told the Australian Financial Review earlier this week he hoped the transtasman bubble could be in place in time for the July school holidays.
A spokesman for Ardern confirmed that timing was a possibility.
At this point no one can say how expensive flights will be.
"I have heard mixed views on this, and I know the competition regulators are watching this carefully," Sherry told the Sydney Morning Herald.