Australia will extend its two-way quarantine-free travel bubble to Japan and South Korea before the end of the year, with potentially more destinations on the cards before 2022, according to the Prime Minister.
This week, the first stage of the country’s travel bubble with Singapore kicked off on Monday, allowing Australians to travel to the city-state without quarantining.
The same rules will apply to Singaporean travellers from 21 November, making it the second country granted quarantine-free travel to Australia after New Zealand.
While Australia’s international travel ban was lifted at the beginning of this month, allowing Aussies to travel overseas and return to NSW and Victoria without quarantining, foreign nationals are still required to quarantine unless they are immediate family members of an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry that Japan and South Korea would be next in line for travel bubble arrangements.
“Singapore opens up on the 21st of November. I think we’ll move fairly quickly beyond that into Korea and Japan, and before the end of the year I hope we’re opening up even more,” he said.
The PM said Australia has to approach the return of international travel with care, and that the next few weeks will be critical as the rest of the nation will be watching NSW and Victoria with keen interest.
“We’ve just got to get through these next couple of weeks,” he said.
“Australians have been through a lot. They don’t want to see it get the wobbles now in terms of how we’re managing the safely reopening process.
“I commend both the Victorian and New South Wales governments for what they’ve done in abolishing quarantine for those coming from overseas who’ve had two-dose vaccinations.”
Despite the travel ban lifting, only NSW and Victoria are allowing quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated Australians and their immediate families, with Tasmania and South Australia following suit from 15 December and by the end of this year, respectively.
Since rolling out its national reopening plan, the federal government has made clear its opinion that all states should open once they hit the 80 per cent vaccinated target.
“Vaccination was the key part of the answer. People have been vaccinated, so that has to be honoured,” Morrison said on Wednesday.
“And I think, the experience that is being lived out now is a positive one in both states [NSW and Victoria]… I give credit where it’s due in terms of planning for the impact on hospitals.
“I think that should be an encouragement to other states that will remain locked up for a bit longer… Because once you get 80 per cent, as the Doherty Institute shows, you can move on.
“I think we’ll see that here in Victoria and New South Wales very soon… I wish it would be true for the rest of the country.”
Morrison also said migrant workers will return to Australia “as soon as possible”, and international students will be returning before the end of the year.
“I believe we’ll have skilled migration happening, well, it’s happening already now,” he said.
“Students will be back, I think, before the end of the year, particularly here in Victoria.”
As of today, Japan has vaccinated about 75 per cent of its population and South Korea has vaccinated about 77 per cent.
Australia has vaccinated 89.9 per cent of its population aged over 16 years.
Featured image source: iStock/fotoVoyager