A new overseas corridor opening in Singapore this week may be the first hint at what Australia’s overseas travel plan will look like.
Singapore’s highly anticipated travel corridor for vaccinated residents in Hong Kong, Germany and Brunei will take flight this week – making it the first ‘bubble’ of its kind between Asia and Europe since the pandemic began.
Singapore, which has a vaccinated population rate of 80 per cent, announced it will be reopening borders to certain countries to allow in vaccinated tourists. Some of the initial locations on the ‘green list’ include Hong Kong, Macao, Germany and Brunei.
From September 8, travellers from the listed countries will be able to enter Singapore without needing to enter quarantine, essentially meaning they can bypass the isolation requirement if they test negative in four separate Covid-19 tests.
The testing requirements for the new travel lanes mean each person will require a pre-departure test within 48 hours of their scheduled flight, an on-arrival test at Changi Airport, and post-arrival tests on days three and seven at a designated clinic in Singapore.
Singapore plans to use this corridor as a trial of sorts as the country begins reopening borders to the rest of the world. If successful, its international travel concept may pave the way for how Australia tackles its own international border reopening – which could happen by Christmas for some states.
Unlike some other countries, which have opened borders to vaccinated travellers from a large number of nations, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wants to take a more cautious approach.
Starting with countries like Germany, which already allows arrivals from Singapore to bypass quarantine, the new corridor will see seven flights a week out of Frankfurt and Munich.
The plan means only vaccinated passengers will be able to book a seat and board the plane.
Another hurdle for incoming passengers is that they must have been in the green light country – such as Germany – for at least 21 days before they fly.
Over the past few weeks, after reaching the 80 per cent vaccination milestone which Australia’s Federal Government is also striving towards, Singapore has really stepped up its post-lockdown game by reopening restaurants and gyms to fully vaccinated people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday following national cabinet, that states which fully vaccinate 80 per cent of people aged 16 and older will be able to resume international travel.
For residents in NSW and Victoria, both of which are battling significant outbreaks with the Delta variant of Covid-19, a surge in vaccination uptake may mean residents will be able to go overseas within months.
However, in contrast those same residents may not be able to travel interstate to places like Western Australia until next year, given Premier Mark McGowan has indicated he will keep borders closed until well after the 80 per cent target is reached.
“I don’t understand why the Liberal Party keeps wanting to bring down the border with infected states like NSW, before we’re ready,” he said.
“What that will mean is the virus is imported. People will die, there will be terrible economic dislocation.
“I don’t want us to end up like NSW. I don’t want us in that position. We’re going to fight like hell to stop that from occurring.”
The national recovery plan, which was initially agreed upon by all state and territory leaders, indicates that once the country hits 80 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated Australians will be lifted and returning travel caps will be scrapped.
On Friday, Mr Morrison was questioned whether he could allow some states to open before others, should they reach the vaccination target.
“Yes, I can. The national plan sets that out very clearly,” he said. “The national plan was agreed by all states and territories. It’s a plan that is actually going to see Australia open up again and move forward again.
“It sees a soft opening, as you ease into a more broad opening when you hit 80 per cent. That’s the nature of the plan, and that’s why I believe states and territory supported it – it wasn’t an all-or-nothing plan.”
Current estimates are that the 80 per cent national vaccination target will be met by the end of the year, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian indicating that the state will reach that target 70 or 80 per cent target by mid to late October.
Last month at the Qantas Group yearly results, airline boss Alan Joyce welcomed the target and said Qantas’ plan to reopen certain international routes stood firm for December 2021.
Mr Joyce said the airline’s plan is to resume international travel by Christmas, with Singapore, the US, Japan, the UK and Canada among the first overseas destinations it will fly to.
The national carrier said its overseas flights plan was linked to the reopening of international borders in line with Australia’s vaccine rollout, which was projected to reach 80 per cent by December.
However, flights to riskier destinations with low levels of vaccination, such as Bali, Phuket, Bangkok, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg, will be pushed out to at least April 2022.