Asia Today: Australia to restart flights to New Zealand
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Canberra Airport opened a register for travelers interested in flying from the Australian capital to New Zealand on July 1 in a proposed resumption of international travel.
The proposal to restart flights connecting the two capitals was under discussion between the two governments as well as Qantas and Air New Zealand, Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron said Thursday.
Under the proposal, the flights between Canberra and Wellington would not require quarantine of passengers. Canberra Airport opened its register of interest for the first flight on July 1 and 140 names were added within the first hour.
“There’s very strong demand for these flights which supports the commercial proposition, but it also underlines the social importance of starting these flights as soon as the health authorities deem it safe to do so,” Byron told The Associated Press.
“We do think that the time is right now for government to set a date and for the parties to work together to deliver the service on that date,” Byron added.
Return flights would leave Wellington and Canberra on the first morning that flights were allowed, he said.
“We have to be safe, there’ no doubt, but the number of infections on both sides is very low. It is crucial that this is just a trial ... and we’ve chosen the two most COVID-safe cities in the world, almost,” Bryon said.
New Zealand is on the verge of eradicating the virus after it notched a 13th straight day with no reported new infections. Only a single person in the nation of 5 million people is known to still have the virus, and that person is not hospitalized. However, it remains likely that the country will import new cases once it reopens its borders, and officials say their aim remains to stamp out new infections as they arise.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— 39 CASES IN SOUTH KOREA: South Korea confirmed 39 additional cases of the coronavirus, all but three in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area as authorities are struggling to contain a resurgence of COVID-19. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the newly reported cases raised the country’s total to 11,629 with 273 deaths. The agency says 10,499 of them have recovered while 857 remain in treatment. South Korea faces a spike in new infections in recent weeks, mostly in the Seoul area where about half of the country’s 51 million people reside. Those cases have been linked to nightlife establishments, church gatherings and a large e-commerce warehouse. Authorities have subsequently shut thousands of nightclubs and other venues.
— AUSTRALIA OFFERS GRANTS FOR NEW HOMES: Australia’s government has thrown the residential building sector a lifeline from a pandemic downturn by offering 25,000 Australian dollar ($17,323) grants to people who want to build new homes or substantially renovate existing dwellings. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday the grants were expected to cost AU$680 million ($471 million) by the end of the year. The grants would “support those families and those Australians whose dream it was to build their home or to do that big renovation -- a dream that they thought might have been crushed by the coronavirus,” Morrison told reporters. The government announced Wednesday that the Australian economy had entered its first recession since 1991.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak