Ah, the land of kangaroos, inverted seasons and home to many Singaporeans abroad. Singapore and Australia share a close relationship, with the prime ministers of both countries meeting annually for the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).
With both countries being able to keep COVID-19 on a (mostly) tight leash, the possibility of a travel bubble has finally arisen.
Let’s just hope that this will be the one to finally go through. After all, third time’s the charm? (Yeah, I don’t remember how many times we’ve tried already)
Pilot For S’porean Students
Both Prime Minister Scoot Morrison and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were looking into allowing students from Singapore to be the first to get the opportunity to travel to Australia to complete their studies.
The pandemic has forced many Singaporean students abroad to return home, disrupting their education, clinical attachments or postings. Mr Lee noted that “there is urgency for them” to return and resume their studies.
“So I raised this with the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Morrison was very generous to say yes, it is on his mind and he is minded to do that as his first priority,” he added.
Both leaders agreed that such a move involving students could be a good opportunity to test the systems, before widening such travel arrangements.
“We really do want to focus on those students coming as a first wave, the first tranche as part of the exercise—piloting how these systems can work most effectively when we get to the next phase,” expressed Mr Morrison.
There has been no confirmed timeline so far but they hope that the pilot program can be carried out as soon as possible.
Putting Systems In Place
Of course, stringent regulations must be put in place so that the bubble doesn’t pop.
The prime ministers discussed how two-way travel between both countries could be resumed in a “safe and calibrated manner” once the countries are prepared.
“It starts with mutual recognition of health and vaccination certificates, possibly in a digital form. When all the preparations are ready, we can start small with an air travel bubble to build confidence on both sides,” said Mr Lee.
Reiterating Mr Lee’s sentiments, Mr Morrison emphasised that there would be some time before the two countries would be able to “reach that milestone” and now needed to “[get] on with the job” of putting systems in place.
“The sophistication of the systems both in Singapore and Australia I think will enable both countries to ensure that we can get a system that works incredibly well.”
Other Conditions For Travel Bubble to Work
Apart from health and vaccination certificates, the vaccination rates and COVID-19 transmission rates for both countries will be another crucial factor, according to CNA.
Mr Lee highlighted how the vaccination programmes of both countries are steadily progressing and will make it easier for them to “contemplate these openings” once the majority of both populations are protected.
“What we want to do is to get the preconditions infrastructure ready, the vaccine recognition, what are the standards, what are the conditions. Then the actual decision to do it, that is a political decision.”
However, neither Singapore nor Australia has identified a benchmark vaccination rate that would influence the decision on an air travel bubble, said Mr Morrison. Thankfully, it seems that both countries are sound and will rely on the advice of the medical community when moving forward.
Singapore is the first country outside of New Zealand that Australia would like to engage in a travel bubble with. Hopefully, with vaccinations well underway, this will finally be a reality for us all.
Featured Image: Andrey Bayda/ Shutterstock.com