Australia-Singapore travel bubble: Will students benefit?

Australia-Singapore travel bubble: Will students benefit?

With the rise of the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble, many international students at Australian universities are either looking forward to the opportunity to eventually return to campus, or to return home. It will facilitate flights between the two countries, similar to the air travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

It comes after Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke in Singapore last week to discuss the resumption of “safe and regulated” travel between the two countries. “We need to have the infrastructure and processes in place to be ready, and that starts with mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, possibly in digital form – very likely – when all the preparations are in place, we can start small and travel bubbles to build Confidence on both sides,” Lee said.

So how soon can we expect the Australia-Singapore travel bubble and who will benefit? Here’s what you need to know.

With athletes moving in and out of Australia, international students are wondering how long they will have to wait to return to campus.Source: Syed Khan/AFP

Will international students be given priority?

Early indications are for sure. The Australian Government is aware of the numerous movements and voices of discontent from international students over the past month; implementing this travel bubble would be a recognition of the socio-economic value they bring to the country.

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said: “International student numbers have dried up so it will be important to start over and there are many jobs in Australia that are not related to the industry.”

Of course, Singapore students will benefit first. First-year students like ANU’s Chris Gan can finally set foot on campus. “I believe Singaporeans will also be able to travel to Australia,” he told The Straits Times of the expected two-way nature of the arrangement.

Other students will eventually be able to continue their studies in Australia, such as University of Adelaide student Shalynn Tsai. With Australian borders still closed, she was stuck at home and had to take a break from her Bachelor of Dental Surgery. “It was stressful not knowing when or if we could continue our degree. With the travel bubble, we could finally go back and continue our studies,” she said.

When will the Australia-Singapore travel bubble open?

Make no mistake – the Australia-Singapore travel bubble is still in the early stages of planning. While Morrison said it was “some time before we reached this milestone”, he also promised that Singaporean students would be among the first to return to Australia “at the earliest possible opportunity”.

Australia-Singapore travel will be affected by COVID-19 vaccination and transmission rates in both countries, ensuring the safety of either party is not compromised. “I think it’s easier for us to think about these openings once most people are vaccinated,” Li said.

Australia - Singapore

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shake hands during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Singapore on June 7, 2019.Source: Roseland Rahman/AFP

As of mid-June, Singapore had fully vaccinated 33% of the population, while Australia only covered 2.6%. “None of us have a baseline rate of vaccination in place when making decisions around the travel bubble, but I think over time the medical evidence will continue to inform that,” Morrison explained.

Singapore has adopted the SafeTravel Pass to simplify international travel, while Australia may soon use the IATA Travel Pass. The Australian government is also considering a pilot scheme for vaccinated Australians to travel overseas from August.

Will international students still be quarantined?

News of the Australia-Singapore travel bubble first surfaced in October 2020 and resurfaced in March 2021, when Australia suggested that Singapore could be a quarantine and vaccination hub for returning students. The arrangement is designed to welcome people from third countries into Australia after a two-week quarantine in Singapore.

While there are no details on quarantine requirements, the Australia-Singapore travel bubble is ideally not needed if it only facilitates the movement of vaccinated individuals. Queensland University of Technology student Ryan Soh told The Straits Times: “Nevertheless, if isolation is required then hopefully it will be easier or cheaper for students as some of us may not be able to afford it.”

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