Australia and Singapore have agreed to build a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries similar to Australia’s pre-existing one with New Zealand.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with Singapore leader Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday on his way to the G7 summit to be held in Cornwall, U.K. The two PMs committed to resuming two-way cross-border travel “when the public health situation in both countries permits,” according to a joint statement.
“There is still some time before we reach that milestone,” Morrison told reporters in Singapore.
“But there is nothing impeding us getting on with the job of putting systems in place that will enable such a bubble to emerge between Singapore and Australia.”
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said he hoped the travel bubble can open “as soon as possible”.
“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but let’s work toward it as quickly as we can,” he told the Nine News on Friday.
Dutton said students of Singapore will be prioritized to return to Australia once the travel bubble is built.
“That’s a big industry for Australia,” he said. “International student numbers have dried up so to see that start again will be important and there are many Australian jobs that hang off that industry.”
However, the Singaporean prime minister suggested that the travel bubble would not be built before most people in both countries receive vaccines.
Lee said at the joint media conference that the bubble would need mutual recognition of vaccine certificates to start.
“When ready then we can start small with an air travel bubble to build confidence on both sides,” he said.
So far, Australia has administered about 5.4 million vaccines, lagging behind Singapore, which has less than half of the 4.7 million-strong adult population been fully vaccinated.
The leaders signed a new memorandum of understanding on health and health technologies, agreeing to establish a $30 million partnership to accelerate the deployment of low emission fuels and clean technologies to reduce emissions in maritime and port operations.
The two parties also shared their concerns on the station in Myanmar and agreed that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) could play a significant role in facilitating a peaceful solution for the country.
AAP contributed to this report.