published 22/03/2021

Bursting trans tasman bubbles

"At the moment of victory, tighten the straps of your helmet!"

After fastening my helmet, Tokugawa Ieyasu would, presumably, want me to start with some reality. He would also probably like me to speak Japanese, but I don't speak Japanese. So we're at an impasse.

Anyway, it's still a terrible idea to consider opening any sort of trans Tasman travel bubble at present. Here's why.

  • Multiple lockdowns, both countries.

    • Cities and regions throughout New Zealand and Australia have been routinely plunged into lock-downs during the past year.

      • This is largely because our Governments are terrible at quarantine, despite free access to guidance on how to do it right.

      • If we cannot competently quarantine relatively small numbers of returning citizens (and we cannot), how can we possibly cope with vastly more travelers?

  • It will soon be winter.

    Covid, like all contagious respiratory infectious agents, thrive in winter. Granted, this is still speculative, or at least I think it is. I don't know, and frankly, I also don't really care if anyone's proven this yet. It's blatantly obvious enough that it is so I'm just going to roll with that. Colds and flus are highly seasonal; everyone except for weirdly our stupid Governments know that. Covid is a virus that infects people in effectively identical ways to colds and flus, and that largely behaves like colds and flus (...Also a lot of colds are caused by other Coronaviridae already anyway... So yeah.)


    • Sunlight is the best disinfectant. This is actually true, not just a metaphor. The sun is the most potent antimicrobial force we have, by far. 

    • Sunlight means increased production of cholecalciferol (vitamin D) in the skin. Vitamin D is protective against severe illness with Covid19. 

    • Colder, wetter months mean people spend more time indoors, in closer proximity to more people. 

      • These are precisely why colds and influenza have marked seasonal impacts that are worse in winter.

      • It is very clear from what has been observed overseas that the same is true for Covid.


  • Vaccination rates, as of writing, are 1.1% in Australia. In New Zealand, as far as I know, only border workers and some medical workers have received a first dose of vaccine.

    • To reach herd immunity via vaccination (Vc); assuming R0 of 3.0 for SARS-CoV-19; and vaccine efficacy of 90%(E); 

      • Vc = 1-(1/R0)/E

      • Vc = 1-(1-3)/0.9

      • Vc = 74%

    • The exact Vc is unknown, probably unknowable at this point. Point is, to get herd immunity, it's a lot more than 1%. It is probably somewhere on the order of 65% to 80%.

      • Though coverage of 50% or 60% would still be very effective at  preventing runaway spread of disease.

      • Seems like I'm getting into the weeds here a bit. Let's just do it anyway; I don't really care all that much what the exact number is or needs to be. Actually I think setting targets is probably a really stupid idea.

        • But we do need to get somewhere around that "About 70%" mark.

    • It is possible that we can get close, or even exceed a vaccination rate of “about 70%” by the end of winter in both nations.

      • That would be great.

      • But we are not there yet. 

I think I can largely leave this here... Opening up a trans-tasman bubble is a lovely idea...

However, to do so now, or at any time *during goddamn winter before we have herd immunity* would be a terrible mistake. I cannot emphasise enough how stupid that idea is.

Do not do so over winter. Do not do so until the vaccination rate among the wider population is approaching the herd immunity threshold.


By my hilariously rough estimation, these factors will align by around the end of winter/beginning of Spring anyway. So please, just leave it until then. Support those tourism areas and business that are doing it tough - I realise that will cost quite a bit, it is not ideal, but any wider outbreak or necessitated lock-down period in either country resulting from such an abysmal misstep would cost vastly more than could be gained from premature tourism.

Sorry not sorry about bursting your bubble.

Please don’t make me have to point back at this and say “I told you so”. I am sick of doing that. You bastards.

Dr Jim Schofield 22/03/21 [Edited 05/04/21]

August 24, 2021.

i told you so

Hipkins, Ardern, Ministry of Health, MBIE, FUCK YOU.