The states have so far carried the heaviest logistical burden when it comes to protecting Australians, implementing restrictions, managing quarantine and carrying out contact tracing. Mostly, they have earned our trust in doing so. Now all eyes turn to the federal government as it oversees the vaccine rollout, with the help of the states, and manages the reopening of our borders.
The government must show us that any countries included in a travel bubble are just as meticulous as our state governments in detecting and containing COVID-19. The evidence suggests New Zealand and Singapore are both good bubble candidates. They have quickly got on top of any outbreaks and have largely eradicated COVID-19 from their communities. And Singapore has done a far better job than Australia in rolling out vaccines – so far 6.7 per cent of its population has received at least one jab, compared to 0.4 per cent for Australia.
Singapore has its own incentives to make this work: it is Australia’s sixth largest trading partner, it is home to a large diaspora of Australians and more than 70,000 Singaporeans live here. A bubble with Australia would benefit Singaporean residents and citizens and help Singapore resurrect its reputation as an international travel hub.
While Qantas is hoping broader international travel will be on the cards again come October, health officials are more cautious. It’s unlikely we’ll be jetting off to Europe any time soon. So bringing Singapore into a travel bubble may provide a welcome taste of freedom for those desperate to escape Australia, with seemingly very little risk.
Any bubble, however, means we are putting a lot of trust in overseas authorities to keep us safe – authorities that do not answer to Australian voters. The federal government must keep a close eye on what is happening in those countries, to ensure we are not letting COVID-19 into Australia through the backdoor. Vigilance is essential. We’ve come too far to burst our bubble now.