SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia is "working with Singapore" to create a travel bubble between the two nations as early as July, officials said on Sunday (March 14), in an effort to restart tourism and travel put on hold by Covid-19.
Early in the pandemic Australia effectively closed its international border to slow the spread of the coronavirus, with non-citizens banned from visiting except in special circumstances.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Australia was "working with Singapore at the moment potentially for a bubble (beginning) in July".
"As the vaccine rolls out, not only in Australia but in other countries, we will reopen more bubbles," he told public broadcaster ABC.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the deal would allow Singaporeans and Australians who had been vaccinated to travel between the countries without quarantining.
The newspaper said Canberra is also hoping that people from third countries - such as international students, business travellers and returning citizens - could complete two weeks' quarantine in Singapore before flying to Australia.
Singapore has already opened its border to a handful of countries that have controlled the virus, including Australia, and officials have said the city-state would like to establish reciprocal travel corridors.
"If only others start to do it, then we'll have a bubble, you have reciprocity, you can start to travel. And I hope some time this year we can do that," Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told local radio on Friday.
Australia's 14-day hotel quarantine requirement for arrivals has left tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas, with caps on returnees introduced as the limited system has been unable to cope with large numbers.
International tourism - worth about A$45 billion (S$47 billion) a year to the country's economy before the pandemic hit - has evaporated.
Australia already has a one-way "travel bubble" with New Zealand, allowing New Zealanders to visit without quarantining, though the scheme has been suspended a number of times in response to virus outbreaks.