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Australia and Singapore plan for travel bubble and quarantine hub

March 14, 2021 7:39 am
Aussies could soon return to Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel under an ambitious travel bubble plan being discussed. [Source: BBC]

The Morrison government is working on an ambitious plan.

The plan that would establish Singapore as a quarantine gateway, holiday destination and potential vaccination hub for returning Australians, international students and business travellers.

The deal would help clear the log jam of approximately 40,000 Australians stranded overseas, boost tourism to Australia from Singaporean nationals – and third countries down the track – and kick-start the multi-billion-dollar market for international students at Australian universities, which has been smashed by border closures.

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Australians would also be allowed to travel to Singapore for work or leisure without approval from the Department of Home Affairs, provided they have had the jab.

New Zealand could also be involved in what would become a three-way travel bubble that federal government sources are hopeful will be up and running by July or August – well before a mooted broader opening of our international borders from October.

Multiple Morrison government sources, who asked not to be named so they could discuss details of the proposal, told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Government Services Minister Stuart Robert were driving the plan and leading behind-the-scenes policy work.

Mr Tehan confirmed he had held discussions with his Singaporean counterpart Chan Chun Sing about the plan.

“Singapore are very keen to work with Australia on a proof of vaccination certificate and we agreed our officials should work together on this,” Mr Tehan said.

“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.”

Under the plan, Singaporean nationals who have had their vaccination would be able to travel to Australia for work, study or holidays without having to complete two weeks’ hotel quarantine.

It could also be possible for people from third countries to enter Australia via Singapore after completing two weeks’ quarantine in the city-state.

New Zealanders can currently travel to Australia without going through quarantine but a two-way bubble has stalled because of New Zealand’s reluctance to open to Australia.

A key aspect of the two-or-three country bubble plan is for each country to recognise the others’ digital vaccine certificates.

Alternatively, a person who received a COVID-19 jab in Singapore and given a Singapore-issued “proof of vaccination” certificate, which Australia would recognise, could have their entry to Australia expedited and potentially avoid hotel quarantine, or quarantine for just a week, subject to Australian government medical advice.

The use of Singapore to bring Australians home and to restart tourism and business travel would significantly ease pressure on the states’ hotel quarantine systems and the federal government’s Howard Springs facility.

Australians who have had the jab can already access their certificate through the ExpressPlus Medicare app, but the Morrison government is working to develop the certificate and to make it inter-operable with other countries’ proof of vaccine certificates.

Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said “significant investment” in the Australian Immunization Register meant the government was “in a great position to provide proof of vaccinations to all Australians from the moment the first vaccine was administered”.

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