Australia looks to open other travel bubbles

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Australians could be able to travel to select Asian and Pacific destinations without facing lengthy stints in quarantine by August, as the Morrison government looks to open the border to more countries after establishing a safe travel zone with New Zealand.

For many Australians, it will be their first opportunity to take an overseas trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that a trans-Tasman travel bubble between the two countries will be established in less than two weeks. From 11.59pm April 18 Wellington time (9.59pm AEST), Australians will be able to fly into New Zealand with no quarantine for the first time in more than a year.

So where else could we be flying to next? And how would it work?

Immigration and health authorities are exploring plans to open up to Singapore within months, followed by other nations with low COVID-19 numbers such as Fiji, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Japan and South Korea, although their daily case numbers are higher.

Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan has singled out Singapore as the next possible location, but he says there’s a fair bit more work to do before it becomes a reality.

“We’ll monitor the situation as it’s occurring overseas in other countries,” he said.

“Obviously, Singapore would be a very good next step to build on what we have already achieved with New Zealand.

“But we’ll take our time, we’ll work that through, and we’ll make sure that we have got the expert medical advice backing our assessment that that is the way that we should proceed.”

Australians permitted by the government to leave the country can currently enter Singapore by having a negative COVID-19 test result in the 72 hours before departure and by isolating until they receive the result of another test upon arrival, typically within a day.

There were hopes within the Morrison government for Singapore to be a quarantine centre and vaccination hub for thousands of Australians returning from overseas but the Singapore government has said that is not part of the discussions.

After Singapore, Australia is looking to establish quarantine-free travel with other Asian countries with low rates of COVID-19 from around August. It is also looking to secure agreements with Pacific nations, with sources saying Fiji would be a priority. Mainland China is also an option, despite diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

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