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COVID-19: Singapore / Australia / New Zealand travel bubble – what’s that all about?

COVID-19: Singapore / Australia / New Zealand travel bubble – what’s that all about?

Both the Singapore and Australian governments have confirmed that they are discussing a ‘travel bubble’ for air transport. Including New Zealand seems sensible but would depend on how skittish those Kiwi’s are about outbreaks in Australia. We will let them in, but they still make us complete 14 days of quarantine if we want to visit the land of the long white cloud.

How it might work

The idea is that passengers could relatively freely travel between the countries without quarantine. However, they would need to satisfy a few conditions believed to include:

  • Vaccination against COVID-19 (so we are talking this starting after July 2021 when most Australians will have access to the vaccine)
  • Testing – presenting a negative result within a specified period before travel – probably 72 hours, and probably testing and quarantine until a negative result on arrival
  • Installing the ‘TraceTogether’ app on your mobile, and keeping it active up to 14 days after you have left Singapore
  • Health Insurance covering COVID-19 (minimum SG$30,000 cover)- that’s a current condition of entering Singapore

Well its all well and good to be able to get out of Australia and travel to Singapore and maybe New Zealand without going into 14 days quarantine, but it’s not like getting travel back to normal is it?

Another complication is despite several candidates, there is no agreed digital, globally recognised COVID-19 vaccination passport. Apparently the governments are negotiating to have one or more mutually recognised digital vaccination ‘passport’.

a bed with pillows and a pillow on it

Singapore as Quarantine centre

The other speculation is that Singapore could become a quarantine centre for Australians returning from Europe and other destinations. Lets say Australia opens its international borders but only if on your return to Australia you spend 14 days in quarantine in Singapore. OK, it sounds better than nothing, but its still – count them – 14 days confined to a hotel room.

But there are other travellers who want to head to Australia that might find this attractive – think foreign students wanting to attend educational institutions and returning Australians who can’t find a place within the current quarantine quotas for arrival into Australia.

At the moment, if Australia grants an exception, you can travel to Singapore – although there is a bit of bureaucracy to get through, as Australia is part of what Singapore considers a ‘green zone’. The hurdles include applying for an ATP (Air Travel Pass) between 7 and 30 days prior. You need to be tested – submit your travel history (it’s like entering Russia!). Be insured (see above) and have been resident at your departure location for 14 days. That kind of puts the kybosh on interstate connections.

You also need to get tested on arrival and quarantine until you get a negative result, in a predetermined hotel.

a restaurant with tables and chairs

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

I wouldn’t be making any bookings you can’t change. Really the ‘bubble’ is just a little bit more than speculation. Yes, they are talking, and yes there are some items on the agenda for negotiation, but that doesn’t mean it will happen or happen soon.

But I think this is an important first step – particularly for returning Australians and those overseas students wishing to study in Australia.

Let’s hope it does happen, so that by say October, we might be able to book an international ticket, if we are bold enough, with some confidence.

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