Singapore — As the country reopened to international travellers, it would be using a plan made up of testing and and risk-based ratios instead of relying on quarantines, according to Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
Mr Chan was quoted in a Bloomberg report on Thursday (Nov 5) as also saying that he hoped this plan could be a model for other countries to begin to allow international travel to start again.
But for now, the people considered being allowed to travel to Singapore would be based on their home country of risk, since some countries have been more successful with keeping rates of infection lower than others.
The minister is quoted by Bloomberg as saying that the Government is looking at a nation’s “observed prevalence rate” of Covid-19 infections and is “mathematically, statistically” ensuring that Singapore will have the “highest number of visitors, business travellers” possible without putting the country at unnecessary risk.
With the tourism and travel sectors hard-hit by the pandemic, Singapore is doing its utmost to make sure borders are reopened safely as quickly as possible. A planned “travel bubble” with Hong Kong is expected to begin within a matter of weeks, with travellers no longer needing to observe a 14-day quarantine.
Instead, passengers must have stayed in Hong Kong and Singapore for two weeks prior to travel and proof of negative Covid-19 test results will also be required.
Commenting on the travel bubble, the International Air Transport Association said: “We welcome the announcement by Hong Kong and Singapore on establishing a travel bubble between the two cities. We also urge other governments in Asia to take a similar approach to replace quarantine with Covid-19 testing as part of their efforts to re-open their borders and start restoring their economies.”
Mr Chan added that similar “travel bubbles” are also in the works with several other countries, with Singapore encouraging these countries not to “wait for the conditions to be right” before beginning to work out the details of mutual travel.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Oct 12 that the country cannot wait for a vaccine before re-starting safe travel plans with other countries. Previous to this, he said in Parliament on Oct 6 that visitors would be allowed to come to Singapore on the condition that they agree to be tested and traced.
And at Changi Airport, as many as 10,000 travellers daily can be tested for Covid-19, and there are plans to build a dedicated testing laboratory in the near future.
Mr Ong told CNBC in an interview: “The bottom line is this. We can’t wait around for a vaccine. The aviation industry, critical to so many economies, particularly a small one like Singapore where you need all these connections in order to be economically viable, can’t wait around for a vaccine.
“We’ve got to start doing something. Active steps.
“And the fact is that we can open up safely because there are countries, regions, that kept the epidemic under control, and testing is no longer a constraint.”
Singapore, like many places in the region including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Vietnam, has seemed to have gotten the infection under control, while the United States and some countries in Europe are seeing record numbers of Covid-19 infections. /TISG