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Vaccinated students could enter Australia under new ‘traffic light’ border system

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Fully vaccinated individuals who pose no health risk will be allowed into the country. Source: Daniel Leal Olivas/AFP

Australia could trial a “green light, red light” international border system beginning with student pilot programmes, reported SkyNews. Under the system, vaccinated individuals who pose no health risk will be allowed into the country. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said getting compatible vaccination recognition systems in place is the first step. This would be key to setting up travel bubbles potentially with Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, said the report. 

In a separate report, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the federal government is in “no rush to open the borders” to international travel despite being in negotiations with Singapore about a potential travel bubble with Australia. When the country would open up a travel bubble with Singapore would be up to medical experts.

“It will largely depend on how these various variants play out,” he was quoted saying by The Sydney Morning Herald. “It has been made very clear we will only create a bubble with Singapore when it is safe to do so and in the meantime, we are looking at what would be the processes that would allow that to be as safe as possible.”

Vaccinated people key to the creation of further travel bubbles

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International students are eager to get vaccinated, but Morrison notes that the success of travel bubbles starts with mutual recognition of vaccination certificates. Source: William West/AFP

Tehan’s comments came after Morrison told The Weekend Australian the government would spend the next six months monitoring the spread of new COVID-19 variants overseas, and the effectiveness of vaccines before making a decision on reopening international borders, without giving an inoculation rate that would trigger reopenings. Morrison said identifying people who had been fully vaccinated was key to the creation of further travel bubbles, following Australia’s first travel bubble with New Zealand.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton was quoted saying that any decision about the travel bubble would need to go before the National Cabinet. Singapore was still struggling with the Delta variant and would need to drive down case numbers. Sutton said health authorities were modelling different vaccination rates that could allow Australia to reopen its borders but said he didn’t think Australians would tolerate death rates similar to those seen overseas.

Previously, Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and Morrison had spoken in Singapore to discuss reinstating “safe and calibrated” travel between the two countries. “We need to prepare the infrastructure and the processes to get ready to do this, and this starts with mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, possibly in a digital form – very likely – and when all the preparations are ready we can start small with an air travel bubble to build confidence on both sides,” Lee said.

Despite the travel bubble still being in the early stages of discussion, early indications suggest that international students could be prioritised, with Singaporean students expected to be the first cohort to return to Australia.