There are more than 40,000 Australians overseas still trying to repatriate (photo courtesy Dan Freeman/Unsplash).
The Australian government plans to outsource its hotel quarantine to Singapore, according to reports in the Australian media.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is working on plans to establish Singapore as a 'quarantine gateway' to Australia and potential vaccination hub for returning Australians, international students and business travellers.
There are approximately 40,000 overseas Australians currently trying to repatriate, following the introduction last year of flight caps and strict quarantine requirements for those trying to re-enter Australia. It's hoped the plan would go some way to clearing this back-log by allowing returning residents to undergo their two week quarantine in the Asian hub before flying on to Australia.
It's anticipated the plan will also increase tourism to Australia from Singapore, along with boosting Australia's lucrative international student market which has been crippled by the pandemic.
Under the arrangement, vaccinated Australians would be able to travel to Singapore for business or leisure without first having to seek approval from the Department of Home Affairs to leave the country, which is currently the policy for all departures. And vaccinated Singaporean nationals would be able to travel to Australia for work, leisure or to study without the need to complete two weeks hotel quarantine.
Key to the scheme is the need for each country to implement digital 'proof of vaccination' certificates. Australia's government services minister Stuart Robert told The Sydney Morning Herald that the country had invested "significantly" in the Australian Immunisation Register to allow Australians to receive proof of vaccination from the first jab. He said the government continued to work with other governments and the World Health Organisation "on interoperability of proof of vaccination for overseas travel, if and when required."
Singapore Airlines will be trialling the International Air Transport Association's Travel Pass later this month by making it available to passengers flying between Singapore and London.
So far, Singapore has vaccinated around seven per cent of its nearly six million residents, while Australia lags behind with less than one per cent of its 25 million residents having received a first jab. However, both countries have been relatively successful at containing the virus and often go for several days without reporting a single community infection.
It's estimated that around 15,000 Australians live in Singapore, while approximately 70,000 Singaporean nationals are based in Australia.
According to reports in The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age, the deal could be up and running as early as July or August.