SINGAPORE: A planned travel bubble between Singapore and Australia is “more likely to happen” towards the end of 2021, said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.
Speaking to CNA, Mr Tehan said that certain measures have to be implemented before a travel bubble can be launched between the two countries.
“Obviously we want to see a travel bubble with Singapore and that’s something that both countries are aiming for,” he said.
“At this stage, it’s more likely to happen towards the end of this year as we make sure that both countries can fully roll out their vaccination programmes.”
Other measures such as vaccine certificates will also need to be in place, Mr Tehan said.
Officials from the two countries will “continue to engage” on the matter, he added.
READ: Students from Singapore could be given priority in pilot scheme for possible air travel bubble with Australia
Plans for a potential bubble have been on hold due to a third wave of COVID-19 in Australia, Mr Tehan told Melbourne-based newspaper The Age on Sunday.
The country reported on Monday another record daily rise for the year with 112 new cases, fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant.
Almost all the cases were in Sydney, despite the city entering its third week of lockdown. A woman in her 90s also became the country’s first COVID-19 fatality this year.
Mr Tehan is making an official visit to Singapore as part of a tour of various countries – including Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and the United States – to strengthen Australia’s trading relationships.
He met Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Monday, and is also scheduled to meet Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong.
READ: Australia reports first COVID-19 death this year, highest daily cases
About 40 per cent of Singapore’s population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For Australia, about 11 per cent of its adult population, or 20.5 million, have received both shots of a vaccine.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in March that the two countries were in talks on a possible air travel bubble.
Australian media reported at the time that the bubble – which could also have included New Zealand as part of a three-way arrangement – was expected to kick off by July or August this year.
In June, Prime Minister Lee and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the countries were working on resuming air travel in a “safe and calibrated manner”.
Students from Singapore could be given priority to travel to Australia to pursue or complete their studies when the infrastructure for safe travel is in place, they said then.
Later that month, however, a Singapore Airlines senior executive told the Sydney Morning Herald that the national carrier was no longer working towards a timeline for the travel bubble, citing concerns about its implementation.