An update on COVID-19 from down under . . .
At the time of writing, Australia and New Zealand have 681 and 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19, respectively. Yesterday, New Zealand shut its borders to all but citizens and permanent residents. Australia's same ban came into effect 24 hours later. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government has "an obligation to let New Zealanders come home" and that the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is working to fly citizens abroad back home. She indicated the country is following the lead of other jurisdictions that have been successful in containing the outbreak, including Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Both countries have imposed limits on indoor gatherings of over 100 people and the state of Tasmania is quarantining all non-essential visitors for two weeks, including people arriving from other parts of Australia.
Tourism and education suffering . . .
In both countries, tourism and education are struggling. It is expected the COVID-19-related fall in tourism will cost the New Zealand economy about C$8.2 billion (about 5 per cent of the economy). Wellington has bailed out Air New Zealand with a C$740-million loan. In Australia, tourism is already suffering, with operators in Queensland describing the industry as being in a "freefall," with bookings less than 30 per cent of normal, a figure that is expected to fall even further. Universities find themselves in uncertain predicaments as their financial models rely on revenues from international students paying fees at rates far higher than those charged to domestic students.
Economic stimulus packages . . .
While the public health responses of both Australia and New Zealand have focused on closing borders, limiting non-essential travel, social isolation, and keeping infected individuals separate from the population, both too have recognized the pandemic's economic ramifications and have responded with large economic stimulus packages. Australia's C$14.8-billion plan was announced on March 12 and an update is expected in the coming days. The government of New Zealand announced its C$9.9-billion package on March 17. Economic plans in both countries include support for businesses and individuals such as tax breaks, wage supports, and direct transfers. Canadians will recognize the public health and economic responses as being remarkably similar to those being implemented in Canada.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Coronavirus travel restrictions to Australia prompt foreigners and locals to fly in en masse
- Radio New Zealand: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: 'We have an obligation to let NZers come home'
- The Sydney Morning Herald: Don't be like Italy: the imperative behind Australia's coronavirus response