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Samoa should be included in N.Z's travel bubble

A Member of Parliament from New Zealand’s National Party, Judith Collins, has called for Samoa to be included in New Zealand's COVID-19 travel bubble.

The New Zealand government has already made a commitment with Australia to create a trans-Tasman bubble when it is safe to do so. 

That country's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said that September could be a "realistic" timeframe. 

But National MP Judith Collins told TVNZ1's Q+A that she would like to see the Pacific Islands included, because countries like Samoa closed their borders a month before New Zealand did and up until now, there are no cases of COVID19 in Samoa.

“They are a country that could do with some tourism from New Zealand," said Ms. Collins.

Fiji's Economy Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiym told the Australian Financial Review in May including Fiji in a trans-Tasman bubble would do "far more good than any aid or assistance".

"Fijians yearn to swim sustainably, not just be kept afloat."

On May 28, New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters said including Pacific Island nations in the trans-Tasman bubble was being looked at, however, "the last thing we want to do is imperil the populations of those countries". 

But Ms. Collins said there should also be more clarity over the people allowed into New Zealand after borders were closed due to the pandemic. 

New Zealanders and family members or people deemed essential are allowed into the country. Of more than 2000 exemption applications, only 10 per cent were approved.

"There are a lot of people wanting to have some clarity to make big business decisions," Ms. Collins said.  

"We are in for an enormous battle when it comes to the economy and jobs." 

She said she thought allowing foreign students into New Zealand "does need to occur as long as there is quarantine" and contact tracing.

"It's got to be done safely." 

The Samoa Hotel Association President, Tupai Saleimoa Vaai told the Samoa Observer that from tourism’s perspective, they would love to be included in that travel bubble.

“We are a country that is COVID free, with New Zealand and Australia even though that they have done well to contain it there is a huge work that needs to be done and a foundation that needs to be laid to ensure that our country still remains COVID-19 free.

“Even now with the repatriation that is coming in we are running the risks.

“We would love to be included in that bubble because for the industry, it is not only a great selling point for us to be COVID-19 free but it will help with recovery especially with the dependency on tourism that we have and the contribution that it has into the economy.”

He added that it is quite essential to get the industry recover rather sooner than later.

“But it also depends on how secure and comfortable our Government to allow it.”

However, Tupai added that the tourism industry’s stance is to support the closure of the borders.

“And we are not pushing to open up the borders because the safety of our country is more important.”

Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get comments from the Samoa Tourism Authority and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade via email were unsuccessful.

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