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Australia-Singapore travel bubble: Students, business travellers could return first

Australia travel bubble
Reports say the Australia travel bubble with Singapore is “focused on allowing vaccinated students and business travellers to travel freely between Australia and Singapore as the first step, before opening up to tourists.” Source: Roslan Rahman/AFP

What’s the latest on the “Australia travel bubble” and its effects on international students locked out of Australia? Here’s some good news: the country will soon be establishing a travel bubble with Singapore. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong a few months back to set up a new arrangement that will see Australia’s borders open more quickly to Singapore. “We anticipate that being able to be achieved within the next week or so as we would open up to more visa class holders coming out of Singapore,” he said on October 22. 

“We will see that occur, those ports here in Australia will be open the same way as they are here in Sydney, and we would expect to see that align pretty much with the timetable that Qantas has announced today regarding when they’ll have flights to Singapore. So that’s another further example of how we’re taking this agenda forward. How we’re taking Australia, we’re opening up.”

In a Facebook post, Lee said: “Delighted to hear that Australia will be allowing entry to visa holders from Singapore.” He added, “Singapore and Australia have robust economic and investment links, and warm people-to-people ties. Look forward to resuming close connectivity between our countries, as we move towards an endemic COVID future.”

Australia travel bubble

Details about the Australia travel bubble could be announced within the week or so. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Australia travel bubble with Singapore: What we know

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australia travel bubble with Singapore is focused on allowing vaccinated students and business travellers to travel freely between Australia and Singapore as the first step, before opening up to tourists.

A spokesperson from the Australian National University Singapore Students’ Association spokesperson told The Business Times (BT) that most of the Singaporean students there are apprehensive about the announcement, “but we wholeheartedly welcome today’s news.” 

Approximately half of the Singaporean students at ANU are stuck in Singapore, and the spokesperson told the financial daily that they would be excited to commence in-person learning. “Students in Australia are also looking forward to returning home and visiting family after nearly two years,” the spokesperson was quoted saying.

Other news on Australia’s borders 

Separately, Tasmania and Queensland are expected to reopen their borders on December 15 and December 17 respectively, provided travellers meet certain conditions, including being vaccinated and have a negative PCR test before arriving. For now, this is only applicable to Australian citizens and residents.

New South Wales and Victoria will be reopening their borders to a small group of international students under a pilot plan. In speaking about the reopening of NSW’s international borders, Morrison said: “I know there’s a lot of Australians who want to get home, so I want them to get the seats on these planes first. And then we’ll see how the recognition of the international vaccination certificates from other countries goes, that we can see how that plays out over November. And then I can just see us moving into other groups as well. 

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australia travel bubble with Singapore will be similar to the travel bubble Australia established with the South Island of New Zealand this week. Trade Minister Dan Tehan had previously told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the government “ideally” wanted to open up to all countries before Christmas. “So we keep working on travel bubbles, or the equivalent of travel bubbles, and ideally the hope would be that you would be able to open up to all tourists who are vaccinated with vaccines recognised by ATAGI [the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation],” he said.