Singapore travel bubble delayed until end of 2021: Tourism Minister

Quarantine-free travel between Australia and Singapore has been pushed back to the end of the year, as Sydney cases of COVID-19 grow and the vaccine rollout drops behind schedule.

Australia had planned to establish a travel bubble with Singapore within the next few months, but Tourism Minister Dan Tehan told The Sydney Morning Herald that while the bubble was a priority, it had to be delayed.

In March, Tehan said a bubble between the two countries would allow quarantine free travel for holidaymakers, students and business travellers provided they are vaccinated.

On top of this, he said the plan could see Singapore become a potential vaccination hub and ‘quarantine gateway’ for the 40,000 Aussies looking to return home from overseas.

Singapore lifted border restrictions for visitors from Australia, New Zealand, Brunei and Vietnam last year; however, Australians are required to obtain an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.

Before departing on a two-week trip to Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and the United States, Tehan told SMH the bubble would be delayed by the “third wave of the virus”.

“This is something that we want to continue to progress and it’ll be part of discussions, so that when the time comes and we can get the medical experts to tick off on it, Singapore still remains a potential next step when it comes to future travel bubbles,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to put a time frame on it, but when you look at the plan that Singapore have put in place and you put it alongside the plan that the Prime Minister has announced, the hope might be towards the end of the year that you could look at a travel bubble with Singapore.”

Tehan also said vaccine passports would likely be required for overseas travel for “12 months or two years” if we are able to open up next year.

“It could be like the little yellow booklet for yellow fever,” he said.

Almost 40 per cent of Singaporeans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared with around 9 per cent of Australians.

In June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Singapore would be “the first country outside of New Zealand” that Australia would form a bubble with.

During a visit to the country on his way to the UK for the G7 summit, Morrison said the bubble would begin with priority to Singaporean students to return to Australia as part of the “exercise pilot”.

However, he added that the “timing of that is still some way away”.

Featured image source: iStock/guvendemir