By Kyunghee Park, Philip J. Heijmans and Haslinda Amin
(Bloomberg) — Singapore is seeking to add more countries to its vaccinated travel lane program in a signal to the world it’s committed to reopening.
After starting to allow vaccinated visitors from Germany and Brunei from next month, the city-state will “work from there to see which countries and how we can go about it,” Minister of Transport S. Iswaran said in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday.
“We’ve calibrated it tightly in terms of designated flights, but the intention really is to do this well so that we can then scale up,” Iswaran said. “This is a critical process to make sure that all parties understand what is required of them including the travellers, and they’re able to comply and meet the requirements.”
Singapore on Thursday said vaccinated travellers from Germany and Brunei can enter from Sept. 8 without having to quarantine and without the need to have a purpose for visiting or controlled itinerary. Since Germany is already open to people arriving from the city-state, this effectively starts the island nation’s first transcontinental travel bubble.
While Iswaran declined to be drawn on how many countries Singapore is talking to or which ones, he described the move as a “signal to the rest of the world.”
“Essentially we are signalling a path towards reopening,” Iswaran said. “Is it something that is foolproof? We don’t know. But we are doing everything we can to start to forge that path back to restoring travel, restoring connectivity, because that is going to be an essential part of business.”
Monitoring Imported Cases
Singapore has indicated it is increasingly shifting away from a so-called Covid Zero strategy aimed at stamping out the virus. While other places like Australia and New Zealand are largely locked down as they try to reduce transmission in populations that aren’t highly vaccinated, Singapore is loosening measures in a controlled way.
For more on Singapore’s virus approach:
With nearly 80% of its population now fully vaccinated, the government has room to reopen its borders. It will closely monitor the number of imported cases to ensure that the protocols put in place for the vaccinated travel arrangements work, Iswaran said, adding that “the greater the fidelity to the protocols, the greater the chance of success.” Singapore has fully vaccinated 78% of its population, among the best inoculation rates in the world.
As for when life may go back to normal and travel will be as free as it was in 2019 however, Iswaran isn’t offering any timeline.
“I don’t like looking into crystal balls because I get tired of eating crushed glass,” he joked, adding “I think it’s too difficult to call.”
“Our own analysis is that the sooner we learn how to live with Covid, the sooner we will be able to adjust our protocols, our processes to return to normalcy as much as possible,” he said. “If we don’t do that and if we’re waiting for an eradication type of approach it might not be possible given the way the virus is mutating.”
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.