COVID-19

Quarantine-free travel to NZ to start within weeks

A NZ Cabinet committee is reportedly discussing the proposal and a decision could be made by early next week, according to Stuff.It is expected to then move to a full Cabinet meeting, and if approved, the bubble would commence in mid-April.While travellers would not have to endure quarantine, each country could still halt such travel as it sees fit.Stuff reports that airports would be divided into “green zones” and “red zones”. The former would be for free and open travel, while the latter would be for those travelling from other countries to transit or quarantine.Airlines have reportedly indicated they would need three weeks to prepare, while Auckland Airport would require 10 days.New Zealand’s Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports are also believed to be participating in the travel bubble. Meantime, Australians could enjoy quarantine-free travel to and from Singapore within months.Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Monday confirmed this week the government had been in “productive discussions” with Singapore to make the plan a reality.The news excited avid travellers who took to social media to declare: “Can’t wait to travel” and “Fingers crossed”.But others were not convinced suggesting the idea is too ambitious stating, “Good luck with that” and “Vaccines First”.Here’s what you need to know.WHAT IS PROPOSED?Under the plan being mooted for July, Australians and Singaporeans will be able to travel between both countries for work, study or holiday purposes without undergoing two weeks in quarantine. But a COVID-19 vaccination will be a condition of travel.WHY IS THIS SIGNIFICANT?It will mark the first time since international borders shut allowing residents to travel between countries without the need for quarantine.Australia has already set-up a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand. But Wellington has been reluctant to reciprocate the arrangement after a small outbreak in Auckland prompted Australia to slam its borders.The arrangement could see Singapore become an intermediary country for those looking to come into Australia, which would help bring home the 40,000 or so stranded Australians waiting to return home. Those travelling to Australia via Singapore could also potentially do so by completing a two-week quarantine in Singapore before entering Australia.SHOULD WE GET EXCITED?Not yet. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs signalled digital vaccination certificates were a focus of talks with Australia. But a global system of proof of vaccination has yet to be created.Aside from that, the rollout of Australia’s vaccination program won’t be completed by July so the program will only be beneficial for people coming into Australia.Meanwhile, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is “not in discussion on the concept of a quarantine centre or vaccination hub” throwing into question any plans for international students and Australians stuck overseas.WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?Michael McCormack said the government would look to expand the travel bubble even further to include Japan and South Korea.“As the vaccine rolls out across Australia and elsewhere, we are confident that we will have these travel bubbles. And, who knows, after Singapore maybe South Korea or Japan?” he said.“Importantly, we get students back in and returning Australians back in.”

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