Travel between Australia and Singapore could reopen without 14-day isolation periods under a 'green lane' proposal now under discussion by the two countries.
Singapore's Covid-safe air corridor would also extend to Malaysia, South Korea and New Zealand, said Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.
"Reciprocal green lane agreements means there must be mutual assurance of each other's test protocol and standards," he said at a virtual press conference over the weekend, adding that a 14-day quarantine at both ends would be "essentially unworkable" for the tropical travel bubble to succeed.
Chan told media that Singapore is conducting discussions "with as many countries as possible" on forming green lanes, although participating countries would need to have confidence in each other's safeguards and, as reported by The Straits Times, "coordinate their quarantine orders so that travellers might only need to be tested or quarantined once."
Singapore's Changi Airport will once again allow transit passengers from this week as the city-state ends its eight-week long 'circuit breaker' lockdown and gradually brings its economy back to life, although 'working from home' will remain the default, restaurants and hawker centres will be only allowed to serve take-away meals, and masks must be worn at all times in public.
Visitors are still not allowed to enter Singapore, however, and leisure travel for residents is also banned.
Bubbles and air bridges
International travel is expected to reopen for Australians to New Zealand in the third quarter of this year under a joint trans-Tasman bubble which may include other Pacific Island nations such as Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
"We are both very keen on it ... across both sides of the ditch,” says NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "It won’t be too long before we are ready."
Government and airport officials, airlines and health specialists have been shaping the joint plan, which is expected to be tabled by the end of June, although it's yet to be determined if travellers would require some form of 'immunity passport' such as a negative test for COVID-19.
Greece has also invited Australia to join a global travel bubble of trusted countries from which it will accept visitors as of June 15 as part of the country's 'Restart Tourism' plan.
Participation in the 'Aegean air corridor' would require approval by the Australian government, as well as state governments with border restrictions, and the lifting of the current mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on all inbound travellers.
A staged restart for travel
Professor Kevin Markwell, Professor of Tourism at Australia’s Southern Cross University, told Executive Traveller “once it was considered safe enough by medical authorities, it would make sense to open up Australia to international tourism in a staged way, just as other sectors of the economy are likely to transition in a staged way.”
“Both countries have put in place measures that appear to be working at reducing COVID-19 infections and could get to a stage where it was considered by medical authorities safe to begin travel.”
However, Markwell suggested that travel might be restricted to those with a lower risk of suffering serious illness “and perhaps requiring all travellers to download an app which could be used to track their movements within each country, in case this was necessary to trace contacts if any further outbreaks were to take place.”
“The ability to quickly put a halt on travel between the two countries will also need to be built into any strategy,” Markwell cautions. “Whether people would be willing to risk travel if their travel insurance didn’t cover them for illness associated with COVID-19 is another consideration."