Potential Singapore-Australia Travel Bubble

It’s been said that Singapore and Australia would be the first countries to implement “Covid-19 Vaccine Passports” for movement within a travel bubble among Singaporeans and Australian.

As of today, Australians are already permitted to transit via Singapore without quarantine as long they complied with Singapore’s safety regulations.

With the recent Covid-19 vaccination rolling out globally, this marks the beginning of acceptance of these vaccine passports by countries across the world and reopening the borders. 

IATA is currently working with nations to come up with safe travel regulations and among these protocols is IATA’s Travel Pass, a mobile health verification app that electronically verify the traveller’s vaccination history and Covid-19 test results for cross-border security checks.

Previously, it attempted to set up something similar with Hong Kong but eventually put on hold as Covid-19 cases surged. In spite of the fact that this is not the first time Singapore has attempted a travel bubble, the Singapore-Australia proposal might just work due to a few factors. 

Low Rates of Infection

Both countries have low rates of local infection and their efforts in maintaining social distancing is commendable.  With 27 deaths out of the more than 57,000 people infected with Covid-19 since the pandemic started, Singapore has one of the lowest case fatality rates around the globe. Singapore has been praised for its thorough contact tracing and testing methods by the World Health Organization (WHO). The country has one of the highest per-capita rates of Covid-19 testing around the world, with more than 15 percent of the population having undergone a swab test. Australia on the other hand, has carried out more than 230,000 tests across the country. Though there are now more than 4500 confirmed cases of the virus in Australia, only 19 people died from the illness and 50 are in intensive care. With the death rate being less than 1 percent of confirmed cases. Australia remains steadfast in flattening the curve of the virus, with strict social distancing measures helping to lower the number of new cases.

Opening up their economy to each other is a necessity

Singapore has a large Australian expat population that has been shut out  for over a year. Furthermore, international travel for education, business and tourism contributed A$45 billion (S$46.8 billion) a year to the Australian economy prior Covid-19 and the decrease in international students had cost an estimated 17,300 jobs and A$1.8 billion in revenue.  For Singapore, an opening up would boost not just tourism, but also strengthen its position as an Asian financial centre and the premier aviation hub in the region. Australia is also the top education destination for Singaporean students and a leading tourism spot for Singaporeans in general.

In the event that the travel bubble is successful, this would be viewed as an example for more travel bubbles with other countries such as China, Japan and New Zealand. Taking into account how the nations should implement a system to mutually recognize the vaccine passports and the compatibility country to country . 

The rate of vaccination of the citizens

Almost 9 percent of Singapore’s population of 5.7 million has been vaccinated. At the current rate of 25,000 to 30,000 vaccinations a day, Singapore should have vaccinated some 80 per cent of the resident population by the end of September – enough to achieve herd immunity. Meanwhile the roll-out has been somewhat slower in Australia, only about 0.5 per cent have had the jabs.

Overcoming the hesitations

It is great news that Covid-19 cases  overall has been declining. Governments have been determined in minimizing the cases and handling the infections internally. Citizens have been accepting safety measures such as the wearing of masks and social distancing and these efforts as a whole led up to gradually reopening the border.  It is vital to remain vigilant as there are potential deal breaker which is the emergence of new strains of viruses in various parts of the world and whether the existing vaccines can deal with them.

Normality is returning, albeit slowly. There are still many variables to consider but after 2020, globally people are open to reopening the border and travelling.

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