However risks remain. Setbacks on vaccine efficacy (for instance, if approved vaccines are unable to neutralise new variants) would keep borders shut for longer and delay the economic recovery.
On the positive side, a quicker rollout of vaccines, to between 80 per cent and 85 per cent of the adult population, could see international borders reopen earlier. Furthermore, many Pacific island countries have not had any community transmission of the virus.
Travel bubbles, where quarantine-free travel between countries or regions with low or no incidence of COVID-19, could be implemented before herd immunity is achieved.
New Zealand and the Cook Islands have already established a safe travel corridor. Naturally, if a safe travel corridor can be implemented, then tourism could return sooner, which would be a welcome economic boost.
However, Fiji’s recent community outbreak has probably delayed a safe travel zone with neighbours Australia and New Zealand until later in the year.
Kishti Sen is an International Economist & Tom Kenny is Senior International Economist at ANZ
This story is an edited version of an ANZ Research report originally published on ANZ’s Institutional website