Report: Singapore and Australia planning all-purpose travel bubble by July

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Singapore and Australia may start a travel bubble for work, leisure and studies by July 2021, according to the SMH. Here's what we know.

While Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders to countries like Australia, Brunei, and New Zealand, reciprocity has been in short supply. Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung lamented as much earlier this week, in an interview with MoneyFM:

“Unfortunately, we are the only safe place in the world that is opening up to others like that. If only others start to do it, then we’ll have a bubble, you have reciprocity, you can start to travel. And I hope some time this year we can do that.”

However, today comes a report from the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia and Singapore are working to open an all-purpose travel bubble by July this year. And from the way it’s being described, this sounds like more than just idle speculation. 

Proposed Australia – Singapore Travel Bubble

Generic photo of Sydney that everyone uses when talking about Straya

Under the proposed bubble, Australians would be allowed to travel to Singapore for work or leisure without approval from the Department of Home Affairs, provided they have been vaccinated.

🇦🇺 Can’t Australians already enter Singapore without approval?
Remember: While Singapore has lifted its restrictions on visitors from Australia, restrictions remain on the Australian side. Australians are currently not permitted to travel overseas without approval from the Australian government.

Likewise, Singaporean nationals who have been vaccinated would be able to travel to Australia for work, study or holidays, without the need to do a two week quarantine. 

New Zealand is also mentioned as a potential third party in the agreement, as is the possibility of Singapore becoming a “quarantine hub” through which visitors from other countries (especially Australians stranded overseas) would quarantine en route to Australia. This would then relieve some pressure on Australian quarantine facilities. 

Update: The MFA has issued a statement clarifying that although a travel bubble is under discussion, Singapore is not considering becoming a quarantine centre or vaccination hub
A mutually-recognised vaccination certification scheme, like the IATA Travel Pass, would be required for the bubble to proceed

Central to this plan is the idea of a vaccination passport, similar to the Travel Pass Initiative that IATA is working on. Singapore Airlines has already started testing this app for flights to London, with a full rollout planned by the end of March. While it’s unclear whether that will be the specific solution used, what’s clear is the need for each country to recognise the others’ digital vaccine certificates. 

Vaccinated Australians are already able to access a digital certificate through the ExpressPlus Medicare app, and the Australian government is working to make their certificates inter-operable with those of other countries. Singaporeans currently receive a physical certificate, although digital copies are also being worked on. 

While a travel bubble with Australia would be music to the ears of many a travel-starved Singaporean, the proposed arrangement could also be a boon for Singapore’s hotels and aviation industry- not just from Australians coming in the other direction, but from travelers using Singapore as a transit point en route to down under. 

Of course, if Singapore starts to serve as an “offshore quarantine hub”, an increase in imported COVID-19 cases is the likely result. There would need to be strict measures in place to prevent leakage into the general community (although arguably no more strict than they already are), and arrivals carefully calibrated to prevent overstressing our own capacity. 

Further discussions are scheduled to happen in the coming months between Australia’s Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing. 

What’s the situation with flights?

Singapore Airlines has resumed flights to Australia, but Qantas does not currently serve Changi

Singapore Airlines has currently only announced its schedule up till May 2021, which features flights to :

  • Adelaide: 3x weekly
  • Brisbane: 6x weekly for March, increasing to 7x weekly from April
  • Melbourne: 7x weekly
  • Perth: 7x weekly
  • Sydney: 14x weekly for March, increasing to 17x weekly from April

Sydney, incidentally, is set to become Singapore Airlines’ busiest passenger route from April. 

Qantas is not yet operating regular international flights (except rescue services, and services to New Zealand), although its latest update states an intention to resume these from 31 October 2021. However, should the travel bubble proceed, I imagine there’d be no hesitation in adding capacity. 

Conclusion

While Singapore had a false start with the Hong Kong travel bubble, this proposed arrangement with Australia is shaping up to be very promising. Australia only just recorded its first local COVID-19 case in more than two weeks, and in general has done a great job of controlling the outbreak with its system of contract tracing and quarantine.

As it stands, the general population in Singapore is set to receive vaccinations from April, and there’s been positive news on the vaccine delivery front lately, with supplies arriving ahead of schedule. 

Let’s keep our fingers crossed this works out. 

(Photo: Today Online)

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Robert

Not sure if they will allow SG children under 16 who are not vaccinated into Australia?

Tom

ya. this is a good question. even if they do start vaccinating under 16s, what about new borns? They will be the last to be approved for vaccinations, as they haven’t started testing

SQ Flyer

Singaporean families with young children are a major demographic for outbound travel to Australia but they will likely just have to wait.

The Australian government first needs to sort out the issue of re-entry for its own citizens – Singapore’s suggestion of offshore quarantine (notwithstanding Australia’s problems with refugees in this regard) is actually rather clever and may yet prove to be a masterstroke.

totalf1

What about Residents? Seems strange the impetus on Nationals only? Others not eligible?

Ben

Australia has had many false starts and dates for when the vaccines will be available to the general public after the high priority groups. The Government is tell the Aus public that we are at least 3 months behind and it may not be completed now till 2022.

ZYX

Very true. And don’t forget Qantas will only restart international flights in Oct 2021.

TS77

Most concerning paragraph-

Likewise, Singaporean nationals who have been vaccinated would be able to travel to Australia…

This echos the HK bubble where EP holders had to seek permission from MOM via their employer to gain re-entry to Singapore.

I don’t see anywhere in the original article where it states only Singapore passport holders? I might be missing it.

TS77

Thanks Aaron, so not PRs or EP holders then.

Seems odd to disregard vaccinated Singaporean residents no?

TS77

Agreed, LHL also on the BBC talking of opening borders late(r) this year.

I imagine by Q4 SHN will be reduced for quarantined travellers from certain countries. Assuming a high take up of the vaccine here.

K G

If you have the Healthhub app or go to the Healthhub website, you can also see a digital version of your Covid vaccination records if the vaccination was done in Singapore (you may also inadvertently see your own other potentially hilarious test results but no doubt they are a testament to your shining strength and vigor)

Wil

Congrats! Ho Ching shares your post. Achievement unlocked!

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