Singapore

International leisure travel not likely this year: Gan Kim Yong

International travel will not revert to normal even after everyone in Singapore has been vaccinated, as travel depends on the global Covid-19 situation, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

When it does resume, it is likely to take place progressively through bilateral arrangements, which could then expand into regional arrangements, he added.

"This is a bit like a circuit breaker," said Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministerial task force handling the crisis.

"It is not going to be, flip a switch and (it is) free for everybody to travel."

He was responding to a question on whether Singaporeans can expect to travel in the next 12 months during a media conference to mark one year of Singapore's battle with Covid-19.

Education Minister Lawrence Wong, the task force's other co-chair, acknowledged that many people are hoping vaccination will allow them to travel without quarantine restrictions.

But at present, Singapore is still studying the evidence and is not yet ready to change the rules, he said.

In any case, the country is likely to be in "pandemic mode" for the next 12 to 18 months, even if certain safe distancing measures are eased in that time, Mr Wong added.

"Even if the majority of people in Singapore get vaccinated, it is impossible for the world to be vaccinated by this year," he said. "Which means that all around us, there will be countries where the virus may very well still be raging."

He also pointed out the International Air Transport Association has predicted that passenger volumes are not expected to return to pre-coronavirus levels until at least 2024.

"The whole recovery is not a one-year issue... it is more like a four-year affair before you see some of these industries recovering to where they were before," Mr Wong said.

"So, that is the picture for aviation and travel, and we have to be realistic that this is what it is, and it will have some impact on our own industries, particularly those that are reliant on aviation and tourism." - THE STRAITS TIMES

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