The “Bula Bubble” would specifically allow Australians and New Zealanders to visit Fiji as their COVID-19 case numbers have declined.

By Alison Fox
June 23, 2020
Advertisement
Credit: Matthew Micah Wright/Getty

The island paradise of Fiji plans to create a travel bubble with nearby Australia and New Zealand to safely welcome tourists back to its turquoise waters and coral reefs.

The “Bula Bubble” would specifically allow Australians and New Zealanders to visit Fiji as their COVID-19 case numbers have declined, Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, said in a statement.

“As Fiji’s cases have disappeared, and cases dwindle in Australia and New Zealand, we’ve been involved in serious discussions about spurring economic recovery through the reopening of regional travel,” Bainimarama said. “The eyes of the world are on us. They are on the Pacific; they are on New Zealand; they are on Australia. And they are on the example we set, together, in charting these unknown waters.”

In order to come to Fiji, visitors from Australia or New Zealand would have to first quarantine for two weeks in their home country — complete with a certificate verifying their isolation — and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours of departure. Alternatively, visitors could choose to quarantine for the 14 days in Fiji hotel and get tested there.

Tourists who are cleared will then be required to stay at their resort or hotel for the duration of their stay, Bainimarama noted.

Fiji has banned cruise ships but will look to permit people to come to the islands on private boats on a case-by-case basis, allowing them to complete their two-week quarantine on the ship.

In addition to those from Australia and New Zealand, Fiji is looking to create a “Pacific Pathways” program with travelers from Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Tonga and could potentially expand that to Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

Fiji has had 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to its government, all of whom have recovered. It has been 58 days since the last case was recorded.

On June 22, the country opened swimming pools, including at hotels, and began allowing groups of up to 100 people at cafes and restaurants as well as for weddings, funerals, conferences, and community gatherings. A nightly curfew remains in effect.

On June 8, New Zealand lifted all restrictions after effectively eliminating the virus. However, days later, a pair of British citizens who traveled to New Zealand tested positive for the virus, becoming the country's first positive cases since that milestone.

For its part, Australia has said it is unlikely to reopen its international borders to most travel until 2021. New Zealand and Australia have considered opening up a travel bubble between the two countries.