Talk of a trans-Tasman bubble has put international travel back on the agenda.
Less publicised is how the Pacific fits in. Reports illustrate a mixed bag - with some nations open to the idea while others are sceptical of opening borders to countries that do not exhibit the elusive Covid-19-free status.
Apart from Fiji, New Zealand's closest Pacific neighbours - including the Cook Islands, Sāmoa and Tonga - are yet to identify virus cases. It is a status they are working hard to keep while navigating the prolonged absence of tourists in a region heavily dependent on business from foreign travellers.
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That plight and its importance to New Zealand was highlighted by Foreign Minister Winston Peters when he returned to parliament last week.
"How can we help our trade, how can we help our part of the world, how can we help the Pacific in a post-Covid-19-world," Peters said.
While he did not specifically address the logistics of including Pacific nations in an Australia-New Zealand bubble, he did talk about aid investment in the region.
"Personally, the investment we make in the Pacific is in the long-term security and economic interests of a country called New Zealand. If we fail to make that investment, they'll be a price to it."
The comments coincide with a request from major aid agencies for New Zealand to ramp up assistance to developing countries. They also reiterate Peters' desire to secure New Zealand's presence among our smaller island neighbours, even as the Government works overtime to sustain domestic affairs.
Pacific countries are the major focus of New Zealand's foreign aid, with 60 per cent allocated to the region. Since the Coalition Government took office, there has also been a significant increase in New Zealand's overall aid budget, benefiting Pacific nations. According to OECD data, aid to the Pacific totalled US$327 million (NZ$543.6m) in 2018, up from US$221 million (NZ$367.4m) in 2017. Much of that can be attributed to Peters' pursuit of increased funding for his ministry and its overseas aid budget.
However, as New Zealand wrestles with the Covid-19 economic downturn, spending in every corner, including foreign aid, will need to be scrutinised. That includes New Zealand's approach to aid in the Pacific, already under review through a government inquiry. While reducing investment is an option, a far more sensible alternative would be to use the crisis to assess how New Zealand can better direct the help it is committed to - particularly as the proportion of government spending on overseas aid is miniscule (less than 1 per cent).
Notably, an analysis of New Zealand aid to the Pacific showed the proportion it dedicated to health had reduced in the past 10 years. In 2008, 12 per cent of sector-specific aid went to health. By 2018, it was 6 per cent, up slightly from just 4 per cent the previous year.
In the current crisis, health infrastructure and systems have become a flashpoint. The inability of Pacific countries to deal with significant outbreaks of Covid-19 have led to harsh restrictions. At the weekend, the Sāmoan government issued a fresh round of emergency orders restricting business and group gatherings for another four weeks - despite the country's Covid-19-free status. In Vanuatu - also virus-free - Cyclone Harold relief efforts have been severely delayed by Covid-19 restrictions. The country reportedly has just five ventilators and is in the process of creating an appropriate hospital isolation space for cases which may need acute care.
Terence Wood, a researcher at the Australian National University's Development Policy Centre who previously worked on New Zealand's aid programme, says Covid-19 puts the spotlight back on health initiatives in the Pacific.
"That's something we [New Zealand] had started to take its mind off over the previous decade. It was good to see a slight rebound in 2018, but there was a clear shift prior to that.
"I think this is going to be a useful reminder that we do need to worry about health globally. Certainly, when you think about Covid-19, it's one of these illnesses where if it's anywhere on earth, it's everywhere."
As New Zealand's pandemic response develops, evaluation of the work we are doing in the Pacific will be important. Health - both in the immediate and longer term - must be a key focus, particularly if we want to enable practical travel and business throughout the region we belong to.