Ong Ye Kung, the minister of Transport for Singapore explained that his country can’t wait around for a vaccine.
Ong Ye Kung MP is served as the Minister for Transport since 27 July 2020. He also served as the Minister of Education from 1 October 2015 to 26 July 2020.
Singapore has no domestic travel market, visitors are arriving through international flights, and the country has to reopen.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the global aviation industry hard, as many countries shut their borders and restricted travel to slow the virus spread. Singapore has not been spared either and is pulling out all the stops to revive its crucial airline industry.
For a small country like Singapore, the aviation sector needs “all these connections in order to be economically viable,” Ong Ye Kung, the transport minister told local media.
ASEN Member country Singapore has set up bilateral arrangements with several countries to allow business travel, including China, South Korea and Malaysia.
While those “reciprocal green lane” arrangements for corporate travelers keep “essential business dealings going, they’re still quite restrictive and may not help to revive Singapore’s aviation sector, Ong said.
Instead, general travel must resume, said the minister. He added that Singapore is working to establish so-called “travel bubbles” with countries that have kept their Covid-19 outbreak under control.
The minister declined to reveal the countries that Singapore is in talks with to set up these travel bubbles. But he said China, Vietnam and Brunei are among those that have similar or better risk profiles compared to Singapore.
Such countries accounted for around 42% of Singapore’s air passenger volume before the pandemic Currently, Singapore’s Changi Airport is serving just 1.5% of its usual passenger volume.
He explained that countries considered “safe” can be treated as “one single quarantine area” with Singapore. That means that people from those countries may not have to apply for permission to travel within the bubble, but maybe tested upon arrival as a precaution, he said.
Singapore should also “actively explore” lifting border restrictions for travelers from countries of higher risks of transmission, said Ong. But for such countries, quarantine requirements will likely deter travel even if borders are open.
The minister named three measures that, collectively, could replace a quarantine upon arrival:
- A protocol of repeated testing. That means testing travelers before their departure, upon arrival, and on specific days during their travel;
- Control the venues that such travelers can go to;
- Robust contact tracing to quickly identify people who may be infected.