The 'huge issue' hanging over 'complex' international travel plan

With Australians given the green light on Tuesday for its first taste of quarantine-free international travel following the announcement of the Trans-Tasman bubble, many are now dreaming of holidays further afield.

The Department of Health confirmed last month it was exploring vaccine passport options as other nations press ahead with their plans, including China which has already launched its digital passport accessible in QR code-form via an app.

Yet the World Health Organisation on Tuesday said it did not support vaccination passports, with Dr Mike Ryan, who heads the Covid-19 response, calling it a "complex issue".

He said such a scheme would discriminate against poorer nations who had not yet managed to inoculate their populations.

A mockup of a Chinese vaccination passport on a mobile phone.
China has rolled out its vaccine passport via an app already. Source: AFP

"There are ethical issues regarding equity, we already have a huge issue with vaccine equity in the world,” he said in Geneva.

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris also said they were concerned about how effective vaccines are at preventing transmission.

"We are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission," she said.

However, both failed to rule out recommending vaccine passports at some point in the future and would be discussed at a meeting next week.

Next countries Australia could set up travel bubbles with

Vaccination passports won't be required for Australians heading to New Zealand from April 19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the development an "important first step" and outlined which nations were being considered for potential future bubbles.

"We have looked at places like Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and countries like this," he said while warning discussions were not in advanced stages.

PM Adern says Australia needs to work through what exactly a hotspot is and how it will be contained before travel can recommence. Source: AAP
Travel bubbles to other nations could commence from August. Source: AAP

Government sources told the Sydney Morning Herald a bubble with Singapore is being prioritised however, there is an expectation the city-state would require proof of vaccination before travel.

Singapore is said to be concerned at the rate of Australia's vaccine rollout, which has come under increasing scrutiny as it falls considerably behind schedule.

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung also announced it was considering Australia as a potential suitor.

Further travel bubbles could be in place as soon as August.

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