Singapore-Australia quarantine-free travel corridor may take months to open

Singapore-Australia quarantine-free travel corridor may take months to open

A planned quarantine-free travel corridor between Australia and Singapore may take months to open due to delays to Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination program.

Australia and Singapore are “putting systems in situ which will enable such a bubble to emerge between Singapore and Australia because it does now occur between Australia and New Zealand,” Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a joint virtual news conference after meeting Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday. He cautioned that any corridor remains a while away.

Such a bubble hinges on vaccination rates, Lee told reporters. “Once the bulk of the population is vaccinated, it becomes much easier for us to contemplate these openings up,” he said.

That means an operational air-travel corridor might be months away, at least. Only about 5.5 million out of 26 million Australians have had a minimum of one jab, meaning some border restrictions are likely to stay well into next year. Morrison’s government has abandoned its original October target to inoculate the population.

Singapore and Australia are among a couple of Asia-Pacific countries that have managed to contain the coronavirus and are reluctant to ease border restrictions. Australia has largely closed its shores to non-citizens and residents since last year, while Singapore doesn’t allow most short-term visitors to enter, apart from those under programs like a green lane for business travellers.

Australia’s strategy of eliminating Covid-19 cases within the community has come under increasing pressure thanks to leaks of the virus into the community from hotels wont to quarantine Australians coming back from overseas, triggering localized lockdowns. Melbourne, the second-most populous city with quite 5 million people, exited a two-week lockdown on Friday.

Morrison said discussions between the nations have included giving priority to students from Singapore to return to Australia to finish their studies. that might be a “first opportunity” for increased travel between the nations, he said.

“When all the preparations are ready, then we will start small with an air-travel bubble to create confidence,” Lee said at the media conference.

Morrison was on a politician visit to the city-state and is due within the U.K. to attend the Group of Seven leaders’ summit this weekend.

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