Australia eyes Singapore travel bubble by July, ahead of transtasman link

Australia has suggested that it may have a two-way travel corridor with Singapore before New Zealand. But what could this mean for a transtasman bubble, if Australia’s borders open to Singaporeans first – a country whose stance on international travel has been far more open?

The governments of Australia and Singapore are currently in talks to negotiate a travel bubble between the two countries, which could be in effect by July at the earliest.

The ambitious plan would be dependent on the ability of both countries to provide a proof-of-vaccination certificate, with hopes this deal will revitalise the flagging tourism industry and see the return of international students to universities, reports Fairfax.

Under the plan, vaccinated Australians and Singaporeans would be able to travel freely for work, study or holiday purposes without the mandated two-week hotel quarantine.

The arrangement could see Singapore become an intermediary country for those looking to come into Australia, which would help bring home the 40,000 or so stranded Australians waiting to return home. Those travelling to Australia via Singapore could also potentially do so by completing a two-week quarantine in Singapore before entering Australia.

In terms of travel time, the sovereign island is a mere seven-hour and 45-minute flight from Sydney, or a five-hour flight from Perth, with the city-state offering plenty of activities for food lovers and adventure-makers alike. New Zealand could also be included in the Pan Pacific bubble as well, according to federal government sources.

Fairfax also reports that Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan has been in talks with his Singapore counterpart and says they are “very keen to work with Australia”.

“I’m scheduled to travel to Singapore in the coming months and this will be a key topic of discussions as we seek to explore a travel bubble with Singapore,” he said.

Singapore Airlines’ executive vice president of commercial Lee Lik Hsin has also hinted at a possible deal between the two countries. Speaking to press after discussions of a Singapore and Hong Kong bubble fell through due to rising infection rates, he listed Australia as potential travel partner.

“As far as other countries go … we still look forward to it and we certainly hope Australians and the Australian government think the same.”

Under current policies, only New Zealanders are able to fly into Australia while bypassing quarantine measures. However, the deal has yet to be reciprocated to Australians, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating the decision is in the hands of the Kiwi government.

“If the New Zealand government doesn’t wish Australians to visit New Zealand and spend money in Queenstown or Wellington or other parts of the country, that’s a matter for them,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“But if Australians can’t go to Queenstown, I’m hoping they’ll go to Cairns.”

Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report that a travel arrangement had been on the table between New Zealand and Singapore, but it would be “not for some time”.

However, the PM was hesitant to begin travel between countries without the “same high bar” of Covid-19 border security as New Zealand or Australia.

“They [Singapore] have kept their travel moving, they haven’t been operating a quarantine system like New Zealand and like Australia.”

“Transtasman travel remains our focus,” as the travel arrangement with the least complications, she said. Even when travel resumes, air passengers must be aware that corridors could be closed with little notice.

“Travellers must be ready that at any point flights may stop and they may be stranded.”

– with additional reporting

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