COVID-19: National leader Judith Collins demands reopening of trans-Tasman bubble 'now'

National leader Judith Collins is demanding a reopening of the trans-Tasman bubble "now" and wants the Government to stop letting "fear" dictate the COVID-19 response. 

"I think it's really clear we should be opening up the trans-Tasman bubble right now for people who are double vaccinated and who are free of COVID," Collins told reporters on Tuesday. 

"Where is the risk? The risk at the moment is on this country being left behind and New Zealanders becoming less compliant as they become more confused about the logic behind the decisions.

"If the rules don't have logic attached to them, such as how can you possibly transmit COVID if you don't actually have COVID, that is something to me that starts to break down people's confidence in the system, and that's why it needs to be based on logic and fact and science - not on fear."

The trans-Tasman bubble, which allowed quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand, was popped in July after outbreaks swelled in New South Wales and Victoria. It was a traveller from Sydney who brought Delta to New Zealand in August, sparking Auckland's months-long lockdown. 

The Government has reduced the length of time arrivals must spend in state-run managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities from 14 days to seven plus a few days of isolation at home. But there are no plans to drop MIQ altogether until next year - even for Kiwis in Australia. 

"We have said that the next stage for changes at our border will be self-isolation. We've said that will be in the first quarter of next year," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Christchurch on Friday

With Australia opening up quarantine-free travel with Japan and South Korea, and inviting international students from next month, Collins fears New Zealand is being left behind. 

"If someone is double vaccinated and they do not have COVID, where is their risk? There is no risk. You can't transmit COVID if you don't have COVID. So, if they're double vaccinated and they don't have COVID, where is the risk? 

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

"The risk is that this country goes down this rabbit hole of thinking we can be some sort of hermit kingdom and not be able to come out of that without this fear of everything. 

"We need to get on with our lives and we need to be able to get people vaccinated but we need to do it without fear and without threats."

Collins, who is double vaccinated herself, said she understands that vaccinated people can still become infected with, and transmit, COVID-19. 

"But you can't transmit COVID if you do not have COVID. It is simply not possible and this fear that's being driven around - all that's doing is making people feel that they can't do anything."

Collins says the border should be opened to all who are vaccinated. 

"I don't think COVID is specific to nationalities - I don't think it's ethnically specific."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has said the concern is around international arrivals seeding cases into the community. 

"Contacts coming across the international border aren't in our contact tracing system whereas the local community cases already are, so we have to deal with cumulative risk. We can't just simply throw the floodgates open. We want to do this in a managed way that means we continue to control COVID in the community."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she was aware of Australia's plans to open up.

"We fully appreciate the importance of us reconnecting safely. We're quite focussed on making sure that as we do that, that the changes we make stick. We don't want the uncertainty for New Zealanders, for businesses and for airlines of changing settings.

"So, that does mean we will step through our changes very carefully and based on the very strong advice of those experts who have supported every step of our COVID response."

Not all experts support the Government's rules. Professor Michael Baker and his colleagues from Otago University penned a blog earlier this month highlighting "inconsistent and arbitrary" MIQ requirements. 

"If you're at the supermarket in Auckland, a fully vaccinated person randomly teleported from Canada is less likely to infect you than an average resident Aucklander in the aisles," they wrote. 

The trans-Tasman travel bubble was popped in July.
The trans-Tasman travel bubble was popped in July. Photo credit: Getty Images

Ardern said winter and resurgence seen in Europe is a concern. 

"This is where I would point to the importance of the COVID Protection Framework. It doesn't say 'here's a date and all bets are off' and we go back to some kind of normal. It accepts that COVID is around, it's still very problematic in some parts of the world, and we want a framework that can see us through that - that people will know that if we do have outbreaks proving problematic and difficult, they'll know what will happen. 

"We've tried to think ahead." 

Collins described the new COVID Protection Framework as "overkill". 

"We shouldn't have to have a traffic light system. If there was a big outbreak somewhere, obviously you'd use some internal borders, but the problem we have at the moment is that we don't have a lot of clarity and we don't have a lot of logic on some of the thinking and decision-making."