Nary a week goes by without talk of a travel bubble.
New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, South Pacific nations – all have been mentioned in conjunction with the words ‘Australia’ and ‘travel bubble’ in the past two months.
And while there may be myriad reasons not to create bubbles with these nations, Australia will become a “hermit nation” unless it rolls the dice on risks associated with travel and COVID-19, says a leading infectious disease expert.
Australian National University (ANU) Professor Peter Collignon said we should get cracking on a New Zealand bubble then pursue bubbles with Asia-Pacific countries that have managed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“We can’t be a hermit nation for two, three, four or five years but whatever we do, we have to keep risks to a minimum,” he told The Age.
Travel to Europe or the United States is unlikely in 2021 in the absence of a vaccine, says Australia’s travel minister Simon Birmingham.
But talks with low-risk nations in the Asia-Pacific have already begun.
Quarantine-free bubbles with countries such as Japan, Singapore and South Korea should also start in 2021.
Prof. Collignon said “Japan, Korea, Singapore Taiwan, New Zealand and most of the Pacific” should also be considered sooner than later.
“At the moment those countries have low levels of community transmission. What that means for quarantining, maybe you do it home?” he said.
“I think we are in this bind for two to three more years, until we get a vaccine that’s 90 per cent effective.”
Setting different rules for different countries is the way to go, says the professor.
New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory re-opened their borders to New Zealand on 16 October.
Singapore has already opened its borders to Aussie and Vietnamese travellers, without them having to do seven days in home quarantine.
Australians are asked to take an immediate COVID test on arrival to Singapore, followed by approximately 48 hours quarantine – or as long as it takes for the test result to come back.
The same arrangements apply to tourists from New Zealand and Brunei.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Japan is in the mix for future travel bubble arrangements. Japan is already allowing business travellers with a 14-day quarantine period.
“Since many Japanese business people wish to enter Australia, we hope they will be allowed to come to Australia in the near future,” said a spokesperson for the Japanese government.
“At this stage it may be too early to comment in detail on the timing and the manner in which short-term business travel would resume without quarantine.”
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also in talks with Australia on “how both countries could work together to re-open borders in a safe and gradual manner”.
And negotiations between Australia and South Korea are underway but are still in their infancy.
Which country do you think will have the first Aussie bubble?
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