NZ ends social distancing, paving way for trans-Tasman sport
New Zealand is expected to scrap social distancing and allow large crowds to gather at sporting events and concerts after recording 12 days without a new coronavirus case.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will unveil plans to step down to 'level one' restrictions on Monday, with expectations that all social distancing and gathering caps will be removed.
"Our churches will be able to return to full service. Our sports and concert stadiums can be sold out," she said.
"And we can celebrate and we can mourn with one another in groups of any size".
The next step, dependent on the establishment of a trans-Tasman travel bubble, would be more Australia v New Zealand matches across a string of codes. Cricket's governing bodies are well advanced with fixture plans for both men and women.
Football Federation Australia has flagged international matches between the high-flying Matildas and Silver Ferns, and fellow Olympic qualifiers the Olyroos and All Whites.
New Zealand Sport Minister Grant Robertson said sport fans on both sides of the Tasman should welcome this news.
"There is the possibility, that if we can get the trans-Tasman bubble going for a huge amount of trans-Tasman sport," Mr Robertson said.
"Already we've got both the women and men's cricket teams organised. I'm quite sure we'd all like another Bledisloe Cup series too, so the All Blacks can confirm their dominance over the Wallabies."
Mr Robertson said his door was open should sporting organisations want to start those conversations.
Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said Ms Ardern and Prime Minister Scott Morrison were strongly considering the trans-Tasman travel bubble.
"When you look at the epidemiology of the COVID-19 issue on both sides of the Tasman we are at quite a similar stage not only in the number of current cases - and our flattening of the epidemic curve - but also in our response," he said.
"So New Zealand is looking to open up a bit more now having closed down a bit further than we did, so we are at a similar stage.
"When we get to that point and we're absolutely sure that we're both pretty much - have the problem under control then there'll be an arrangement, I'm very certain, to allow such a travel bubble to occur."
However, Professor Kelly warned that the disease was still out of control in large parts of the world.
"So we have to keep that vigilance going around people coming from overseas," he said.
He was particularly concerned with Brazil and Russia, which has seen large numbers of increasing cases over the past weeks.
But there have also been spikes in many parts of Europe, the UK, North America and parts of South America.
"Then there are a large number of countries in the world which don't have the same sophistication of surveillance and public health infrastructure that the ones I have just mentioned do and they are also a concern," Professor Kelly said.
"We don't know exactly how many cases there are. Indeed, how many people may be dying from this disease but we suspect that it is pretty much everywhere."
Originally published as NZ to end social distancing, paving way for trans-Tasman sport