May 5, 2020 / 12:55 AM / in a month

New Zealand joins Australia's coronavirus cabinet meeting to discuss travel hub

SYDNEY, May 5 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s prime minister joined Australia’s coronavirus cabinet meeting on Tuesday as the neighbouring countries discuss reopening their borders to trans-Tasman travel following their successes in containing the disease.

Both countries have a COVID-19 mortality rate of just 1% and have boosted their medical equipment reserves as they plan to slowly reopen their economies, including restarting travel across the Tasman sea.

Australia has recorded around 6,800 infections and 96 deaths, and New Zealand 1,137 cases and 20 fatalities.

Ahead of the 10:00 a.m. (1200 GMT) cabinet meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the premier of Australia’s New South Wales state, Gladys Berejiklian, said she was hopeful that a travel “hub” could be formed between the two countries.

“We know that unfortunately international travel is a mid to long term vision, so if can establish a hub between New Zealand and Australia I think that would be a very positive move,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney before joining the video-conferenced cabinet meeting with other state and territory leaders.

“I’m hoping that we’ll get to a stage where our state borders can be relaxed and then we can potentially have a phenomenal New Zealand and Australia cooperation which would allow us to pull our economic resources, pull our trade opportunities but also move together into the future.”

While Australia and New Zealand are keeping their borders closed to other countries, Ardern said on Monday the “next stage in our economic rebuild” could include trans-Tasman travel.

Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates

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