Singapore is likely to be the next international destination Aussie travellers will be allowed to visit, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
During a joint press conference with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Friday, Morrison said Singapore is “the first country outside of New Zealand that Australia wishes to engage in a travel bubble with, and we want to get it right”.
The PMs discussed quarantine-free travel between Australia and Singapore during the sixth annual Australia-Singapore Leaders Meeting at Singapore’s presidential palace, the Istana.
Morrison was visiting the country on his way to the UK for the G7 leader’s summit.
“We discussed how two-way travel between Singapore and Australia can eventually resume, in a safe and calibrated manner, when both sides are ready,” Loong said.
“Before COVID-19, many Singaporeans travelled to Australia for business, for holidays and to pursue their education, and vice versa. We need to resume these people-to-people flows to maintain our close and excellent bilateral relationship.
“We need to prepare the infrastructure and processes to get ready to do this. It starts with mutual recognition of health and vaccination certificates, possibly in the digital form.
“When all the preparations are ready, we can start small with an air travel bubble to build confidence on both sides.”
Hsien said once the majority of the population is vaccinated, it will be easier to “contemplate these openings up”.
“It’s not the only consideration. The prevalence, transmission rates, will certainly be a factor. We watch it carefully. I mean, that’s how the arrangements between Australia and New Zealand work right now,” he said.
Morrison said the bubble would begin with giving priority to Singaporean students to return to Australia as part of the “exercise pilot”. However, he added that the “timing of that is still some way away”.
Loong said there is no timetable for the “pilot”, which he added would later lead to a “full travel bubble”, but he hopes it can be done “as soon as possible”.
Morrison’s latest comments are in contrast to last month when he hinted that Australia’s next travel bubble would be an expansion on its existing bubble with New Zealand to include destinations such as Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and/or the Solomon Islands.
“We are very focused on supporting our Pacific family, and the idea of a bubble that goes beyond New Zealand and Australia is a real possibility,” he said.
According to a Travel Weekly source with close ties to tourism and government officials in Fiji, the island nation was very close to kicking off a quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia before suffering a COVID-19 outbreak in April.
In other travel bubble news, New Zealand’s quarantine-free travel pause with Victoria has been extended to 11:59pm on Tuesday 22 June, according to COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
Hopkins said public health officials consider it unlikely there is further widespread community transmission in Victoria.
“However, in line with our precautionary approach we consider this short extension to be prudent,” he said.
“New Zealand health officials will keep a close watch on developments in the state, but at this point, their advice is that we would expect to be in a position to lift the pause at the end of the five-day extension. This will be reviewed if the situation changes.”
Featured image source: Facebook/Scott Morrison (ScoMo)