Singapore will be negotiating air travel bubbles with safe countries and regions that have comprehensive public health surveillance systems, as well as low rates of Covid-19 infection.
This arrangement is meant for general travellers and does not require a controlled itinerary. They are also different from reciprocal green lane arrangements meant for business and official travellers.
Travellers will have to apply for Air Travel Passes before their journeys, to allow Singapore to plan for their arrival and lower numbers if the epidemic situation changes.
Hong Kong has announced its intention to establish such bubbles with several countries, including Singapore.
The announcement by transport minister Ong Ye Kung comes on top of other recent measures such relaxed border restrictions, and are part of Singapore’s plans to revive her air hub and bring back jobs.
The minister also addressed other steps the country has to take to open up its borders and revive air travel.
Singapore will continue to pursue reciprocal green lane arrangements, which will come with compulsory swab tests before departure and on arrival to ensure travellers do not carry the virus, as well as controlled itineraries to minimise risk of community spread.
Countries currently under this arrangement are China, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.
Changi Airport will also continue to facilitate transfers. There are now about 2,500 transfer passengers weekly, according to The Straits Times.
Also, Singapore should also be prepared to lift her border restrictions to countries and regions that are deemed safe. As a precaution, these travellers will be tested for Covid-19.
Singapore unilaterally opened its borders to travellers from Brunei and New Zealand last month, and more recently to those from Vietnam and Australia – excluding the state of Victoria.
Commenting on the minister’s announcement, International Air Transport Association’s regional vice president for Asia Pacific, Conrad Clifford, said: “Establishing travel bubbles for general travellers and replacing the 14-day quarantine with Covid-19 testing would be positive steps (to) help with the recovery of the aviation sector.
“Imposing a quarantine has the same effect as closing borders. In a recent 11-market survey of travellers commissioned by IATA, 83 per cent of respondents indicated that they will not travel if there is a chance of being quarantined at their destination.”