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Vaccines Won't Be Silver Bullet for Travel, Auckland Airport CEO Says

10/21/2020 | 08:47pm

By Stephen Wright

WELLINGTON, New Zealand--Reopening borders and international travel will take a multi-layered strategy and coronavirus vaccines alone won't be the solution, the chief executive of Auckland International Airport Ltd. said.

Unrealistic "silver bullet" hopes are being pinned on vaccines, while decades of pre-pandemic experience in the airline and airport industries shows that risk is managed through layers of processes, CEO Adrian Littlewood said in an interview Thursday.

"We can't be searching for silver bullets whether it's vaccines, technology or other things. There's going to be multiple things layered up to give protection," Mr. Littlewood said.

"There's almost this devotion to (the idea) a vaccine will solve our problems. I think we need to have a range of tools in our kit," he said.

Auckland Airport has warned of a potentially longer recovery for its business than the three years forecast by the International Air Transport Association for global travel, citing the New Zealand government's response to the pandemic.

Taking advantage of New Zealand's remote island geography and low population density, the government has aimed to stamp out the virus rather than slow its spread.

It has used strict lockdowns to achieve that goal, while places such as South Korea and Taiwan, which also have low numbers of virus cases, have relied more on technology and social measures such as wearing masks.

In an optimistic scenario, a safe-travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand could start before Christmas, but what happens is still highly uncertain, Mr. Littlewood said.

Australia's Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales and South Australia states are allowing New Zealanders to enter without a two-week quarantine, but New Zealand has not yet reciprocated.

"I know discussions are going on between the two countries constantly. The groundwork is absolutely happening," Mr. Littlewood said.

"I guess it's the confidence in virus management that will be the key ... and that's a call for the government, so it's very hard to predict."

Auckland Airport has remodeled its international terminal to create separate zones that would prevent mixing of passengers under future arrangements that allow arrivals from some countries to enter without two weeks quarantine.

"We have to design systems that allow us to safely and sensibly connect with the rest of the world again," Mr. Littlewood said.

Write to Stephen Wright at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

10-21-20 2044ET

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