Pacific countries begin to ease pandemic-related travel bans, but hurdles remain

Pacific countries begin to ease pandemic-related travel bans, but hurdles remain”

The first agreement would be with New Zealand, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

He didn't disclose what other destinations could be added to Australia's travel bubble, however government sources revealed low-risk nations such as Japan, Singapore and Pacific Island countries are in the pipeline.

New Zealanders will become the first global visitors allowed back into Australia in just a few days' time amid the possibility more countries could soon be added to the list.

Morrison said he had spoken to his counterparts in Japan, South Korea and some Pacific nations, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne had held talks in Singapore this week on resuming travel.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Japanese embassy thanked Morrison for flagging Japan in future travel bubble arrangements and said the country had begun allowing business travelers to come to Japan, despite the 14-day isolation period. New South Wales, the most populous state, recorded three new locally transmitted cases in 24 hours, authorities said. The state government had been set to allow all shops in Melbourne to reopen, outdoor dining to resume, and free movement from October 19 if the two-week average of new cases fell below 5.

Kiwis will still be required to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving back in New Zealand, a move that's expected to lessen the amount of travellers. However, he stressed the need to use caution on the matter, saying that COVID-19 hasn't gone anywhere.

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It came as Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham warned that travel to high-risk areas such as the U.S. and Europe was unlikely to happen until late 2021.

'However, the prospects of opening up widespread travel with higher risk countries will remain very reliant on effective vaccination or other major breakthroughs in the management of COVID'.

But Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews says the number of new cases is not yet falling fast enough to ease all of the restrictions that were promised.

Earlier this month, Singapore opened its borders to travelers from Australia and Vietnam, who can now enter Singapore for up to seven days without resorting to home isolation.

People wishing to leave the country must seek approval from the Australian Border Force - but around three-quarters of applications are denied.

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