Singapore—Some Chinese nationals were unhappy with the new ruling requiring them to get tested for Covid-19 before getting on their flights home. Bloomberg reports that dozens of Chinese gathered outside their embassy in Singapore, causing a commotion until the police arrived.
The new ruling came on August 21, after 13 passengers on a flight from Singapore to Tianjin, China, were confirmed positive for Covid-19.
Bloomberg notes that China’s new ruling “highlights the fragility of tentative travel arrangements established by countries to boost economic activity and help the ailing aviation industry,” and is a setback to Singapore’s endeavor to open its doors to international travel again.
The country’s aviation industry has suffered a major blow because of the pandemic, which makes re-establishing its reputation as an international trade and travel hub all the more important.
Singapore initiated a “green lane” travel bubble with China as early as two months ago and is in talks to do the same for Japan and other countries. The “green lane” allows for essential or business travel and does not require travellers to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The Chinese nationals have been having a difficult time getting Covid-19 tests in Singapore unless they are showing symptoms of the infection, they said. Those who spoke to Bloomberg are not “green lane” travellers, but regular workers who will self-quarantine when they arrive in China. But now, they cannot even board their planes to go home unless they have a negative test result.
The Bloomberg report quotes a 28-year-old warehouse manager as saying, “No hospital in Singapore will perform a test for me. Booking a flight is very tough now and I don’t want to miss my flight.” He has a scheduled flight to Chongqing at the end of August.
According to an announcement on the website of the Ministry of Health, travellers to China may ask for help in obtaining help for “pre-departure tests in Singapore for flight departures on or after 1 Sept 2020.”
There have been at least three recent flights from Singapore to China that had no less than five people onboard positive for the coronavirus, the threshold for which the Civil Aviation Administration of China suspends travel routes. This suspension is extended to a month, or even more, should 10 or more confirmed cases be found on a flight.
For example, the flight of China Southern Airlines to Guangzhou was recently suspended when five travelers were positive for Covid-19 after they were tested for the coronavirus when they arrived. The Scoot flight to Tianjin, the sole trip going directly to Northern China, has been suspended as well.
The infected passengers on the Scoot trip were mostly male, aged between 30 and 50, with 11 of them working in the construction industry. Moreover, 11 of them were reportedly asymptomatic for the infection.
How the suspended flights to China due to the infections will affect Singapore’s opening to international travel remains to be seen.
Next in line to be allowed to enter the country are travellers from New Zealand and Brunei, who may come to Singapore starting from September 1, next Tuesday. They are required to be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival, but will not need to quarantine. However, New Zealand’s doors are still shut to Singaporean travellers. —/TISG
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