What is the proposed bubble?
As reported in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and confirmed by both governments, Singapore and Australia are discussing an air travel bubble, allowing residents to travel between countries without the need for quarantine. Reports indicate a COVID-19 vaccination will be a condition of travel.
Why is this significant?
Apart from being the first country Australia re-establishes international travel with, a travel bubble raises the possibility that Singapore could become an unofficial quarantine hub for international students and citizens stuck overseas, who could potentially complete their 14-day quarantine in Singapore.
However, a statement released by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday distanced itself from this idea, saying "We are not in discussion on the concept of a quarantine centre or vaccination hub".
So do I have to be vaccinated?
While no details have been finalised, vaccination will reportedly be a condition of travel, and is an interesting indicator of what might be required to head overseas once the travel ban is lifted.
Conjecture aside, Australia's vaccination program will not be finalised by July, meaning the bubble will be more beneficial for inbound travellers, rather than Australians eyeing an international holiday.
Complicating matters is that a globally-recognised system providing proof of vaccination doesn't exist (yet). However, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs signalled the mutual recognition of digital vaccination certificates was a focus of talks with Australia.
When will Singapore open to Australians?
The bubble is believed to be happening in July, 2021. However, Singapore considers Australia a "green zone" (along with Brunei, China, New Zealand and Taiwan), and has been open to Australia (conditionally) since October 2020. Australia's current ban on overseas travel means citizens can visit Singapore only with an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.
What are the entry requirements for Singapore?
Currently, there is quite a bit of paperwork. Visitors to Singapore must apply for a free Air Travel Pass (ATP), seven-30 days before arrival. Three days before departure, visitors have to submit their health, travel history, and accommodation declaration via the SG Arrival E-service.
Visitors also require travel insurance specifically covering COVID-19 medical treatment, with a minimum coverage of $S30,000 (around $A28,755).
Finally, passengers also have to remain at their departure point for 14 days prior to boarding, which eliminates the possibility of connecting domestic flights.
Will I have to quarantine?
All visitors to Singapore currently have to quarantine - briefly. Visitors cannot quarantine with relatives or friends and must book a hotel; they also need to arrange a private transfer or taxi.
Do I need a COVID Test?
Singapore does not require a pre-departure COVID test. However, a compulsory COVID-19 PCR test must be taken on arrival at Changi Airport. Visitors must register and pre-pay $S160 SIN ($A153) for the test (children under six excluded). Results can take up to 48 hours, but often come back sooner.
Once you receive a negative result, you can start your holiday.
What else do I need to do?
Entry to Singapore is conditional on installing the TraceTogether app on your mobile device. The details you register must match your passport, and visitors must use the app for 14 days after leaving Singapore. You cannot board your flight to Singapore without showing staff you have uploaded the app.
Will I need to quarantine on return to Australia?
Hypothetically, once the bubble begins, no. However, a COVID test with a small quarantine period similar to Singapore's is a reasonable bet.
Will the bubble actually happen?
Don't pack your bags just yet: the devil is in the detail and arrangements have not been finalised. Singapore hasn't hesitated to shut its borders to Green Zone countries during outbreaks, and just like with New Zealand, Australia's talks with Singapore could simply break down.