Australia and Singapore are “committed” to setting up a travel bubble after Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with Singapore leader Lee Hsien Loong overnight.
The PM made the stopover in the Asian country on his way to the G7 Summit to be held in Cornwall, UK.
The two leaders said there was “nothing impeding us” to put systems in place for two-way cross-border travel similar to the travel bubble that currently exists between Australia and New Zealand, according to a joint statement from the PM’s office.
The prime ministers “acknowledged the importance of open borders to the post-pandemic recovery”. But they admitted it may be “some time” before reaching the travel bubble milestone, though Mr Morrison has made it clear he wants the Asian nation to be next on the list.
Mr Morrison discussed “infrastructure” in order to enable Australia to “open up … when we’re both in a position to do so” and “when the public health situation in both countries permits”.
Mr Lee gave some clues as to what to expect, with the possibility of a requirement for travellers to have health and vaccination certificates, most likely digital.
They also discussed co-operating on welcoming the return of Singaporean students to Australia to continue with their studies.
Restrictions easing after recent outbreak in Singapore
Singapore has seen highs and lows of Covid rates since the outbreak of the pandemic and will begin slowly easing a month-long partial lockdown from next week after a recent outbreak.
Fresh restrictions were introduced in mid-May to stop a virus outbreak, including a cap on the size of social gatherings at two, the closure of schools and a ban on dining-in at restaurants.
Now, with cases falling steadily, maximum sizes for gatherings will be lifted to five from Monday, and bigger groups will be allowed at events such as live performances.
If the situation remains under control, more restrictions will be lifted from June 21, including a resumption of restaurant dine-ins, while people will be allowed to work out at gyms without masks.
The country, with a population of 5.7 million, has recorded around 62,000 cases of Covid from the outset of the pandemic, with 34 deaths.
First foreign leader to visit Singapore since pandemic began
Mr Morrison was the first foreign leader to step onto Singaporean shores since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting, with Mr Lee saying he was “very happy” Mr Morrison could make the stop.
Mr Lee said Australia and Singapore have “similar approaches” to fighting the virus and the pair have “strongly supported each other”, especially during the early days of the pandemic.
Mr Lee focused on the need for vaccinations and neither leader set a specific date for the bubble.
Australia has lost an incredible $203 million a day due to its isolation from the rest of the world during the pandemic, according to new modelling by the McKell Institute.
In April, after announcing Australia’s first travel bubble with New Zealand, Mr Morrison said Australia was “not in a position to move forward” when pressed over which country may be next.
In March, reports surfaced the Australian and Singapore governments were in talks to negotiate a travel bubble.
– with AFP