Plans afoot to reopen borders safely: Ong Ye Kung
Air travel bubbles and more green lanes will help revive S'pore's air hub
Those expecting to go for their end of year holidays may be disappointed as widespread air travel is unlikely to resume by then.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said: "For Members who are hoping that I am about to announce some air travel resumption and possible December holiday destinations, I am sorry I will disappoint you.
"The fact is that borders are still closed in most parts of the world."
Mr Ong said some countries, such as Germany, allow only business travellers from Singapore. And a handful of countries such as the United States, Britain, and Turkey allow general travellers from Singapore.
But Mr Ong also noted the status quo is not sustainable.
"We cannot control what other countries want to do with their borders. But we can control ours, to welcome back visitors, bring back jobs, and revive our air hub safely."
Singapore will take steps to gradually resume safe travel, such as negotiating air travel bubbles with countries, and continue to pursue reciprocal green lane arrangements.
So far, Singapore has concluded such arrangements with Brunei, China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.
Unlike green lane arrangements, air travel bubbles are for general travellers and have no requirements for a controlled itinerary.
Travellers will also be required to apply for an Air Travel Pass before their journeys to allow Singapore to plan for their arrival and throttle down the numbers if the epidemic situation changes, Mr Ong said.
He said Singapore has responded positively to Hong Kong's intention to establish air travel bubbles with several countries, including Singapore.
Singapore will continue to facilitate transfers, which make up about a quarter of the passenger volume at Changi Airport.
Since June, about 27,000 passengers have transferred safely through Singapore, and the airport is now serving about 2,500 transfer passengers weekly.
Mr Ong said Singapore must be prepared to lift border restrictions to countries and regions that have kept the Covid-19 situation under control.
As a precaution, travellers will be subjected to a Covid-19 test.
Mr Ong said new requirements are being considered for travellers to replace the 14-day Stay Home Notice period.
Some of these are having a more stringent and repeated testing protocol, segregation from the rest of the community, and closely tracking their movements.
This will benefit not just business travellers but a range of people who need to come to Singapore for various purposes.
"The message we want to send to the world is this - Singapore has started to reopen its borders," he said.
"In the near future, if you have the virus under control and infection rates are as low as Singapore's, you are welcome to visit us, but travellers will be subject to a Covid-19 test, as a precaution."