During a joint press conference with his Singaporean counterpart, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a week ago, Scott 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”.
Read more: First countries in the bubble
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.
Mr 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,” Mr 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.
Read more: Singapore stopover ‘staycation’
“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.”
Mr Loong 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.
Mr 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”.
Mr 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”.
Mr 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 a COVID-19 outbreak in April.
Will you be planning a trip to Singapore if a travel bubble opens? Share why or why not in the comments section below.
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