Professional sport in New Zealand could welcome fans back to stadiums as early as next week, while Australian supporters are likely to have to wait a little longer, with both governments set to discuss easing social-distancing restrictions.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce next Monday whether the country is ready to bring its alert system down to level 1, which would lift limits on mass gatherings that were imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
That would open the door for fans to attend the opening-round matches of New Zealand's Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament starting on June 13, and be a coup for the domestic game which has suffered financially due to the shutdown.
"At level 1, all current rules on businesses and services are essentially lifted," Ardern said on Wednesday. "Sports and concert stadiums can be sold out."
Ardern said the government was working with stadiums to create a "COVID code" to ensure contact tracing was in place in case sports fans tested positive for the coronavirus.
"For those larger events it is a matter of preparedness for us. We may be confident that we're an environment where we do not have COVID in circulation," she added.
New Zealand recorded no new cases of coronavirus for a 12th consecutive day on Wednesday and has just one active case.
Australia's national cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss how to further ease its own social-distancing restrictions, with a return to sporting crowds also on the agenda.
"We're going to try and get back to as much normality as we can, and I would join many people in wanting to go and watch a football match," deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said.
"But we need to do this in a staged fashion."
Australian Associated Press