Coronavirus Singapore

Australia eyes year-end travel bubble with S'pore

SYDNEY • Australia has a "firm commitment" to launch a quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore, which is more likely now to occur by the end of the year, owing to Sydney's coronavirus outbreak, Australia's top diplomat to the city state said.

"There's a very strong commitment for officials, both governments in Australia and here in Singapore, to progress the systems - the operational capabilities, the requirements - that will be necessary to ensure safe travel," High Commissioner to Singapore Will Hodgman said in an interview yesterday.

"Given the outbreak in Australia, the unpredictability of this virus, it is more likely that travel will be possible towards the end of this calendar year."

The statement comes after Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said in an interview published on Sunday that the travel corridor had been pushed back due to an outbreak of the Delta Covid-19 variant that has put Sydney into lockdown.

Mr Tehan is visiting Singapore this week in the first leg of a trip to boost business and economic ties with nations such as Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Sydney, Australia's most populous city, has been in lockdown since June 26, with the authorities indicating that the curbs may need to be extended beyond Friday.

The outbreak highlights problems with Australia's vaccine roll-out, which has been hit by supply-chain hold-ups from contracted drugmakers. Political rivals also say Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed to secure enough doses from a wide-enough range of suppliers.

While Australia was an early success story in the fight against the coronavirus, just 26 per cent of its population has received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared with about 70 per cent in Singapore.

The sluggish roll-out means that even as the rest of the world opens up, Australia's borders are expected to stay shut to most of the outside world until well into next year.

Mr Hodgman, who served as premier of Tasmania for six years until last year, also said that Australia viewed its Quad security partnership with India, Japan and the US as having a "complementary" relationship with Asean.

"It's literally our region, so it's important that Australia continues to have South-east Asia at the centre of our foreign policy, which we do," he said. "The Quad is an arrangement of like-minded countries similarly inclined to ensure that... international rules-based orders are adhered to, and that our broader region remains stable and secure."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2021, with the headline Australia eyes year-end travel bubble with S'pore. Subscribe