“Travel Bubbles” Will Determine Where Singaporeans Can Go Abroad

The city-state’s government is set to allow essential travel in parallel with eased restrictions at home.

Inside Singapore Changi Airport’s Terminal 3, by architecture firm SOM. (Photo: Tim Griffith/SOM)

At a press conference yesterday evening, Singapore’s minister for national development Lawrence Wong—and co-chair of the ministerial-level Covid-19 taskforce—revealed the government was currently in talks with multiple nations to reopen borders for essential travel. Wong said the plan involved “establishing travel bubbles with countries where the virus situation is under control.”

Naturally, new health protocols will be implemented. Travelers coming into Singapore would need to test negative for Covid-19 beforehand, and under the reciprocal arrangements, those leaving the Lion City to visit other countries would also have to be tested ahead of the trip.

“As and when we are ready, we will announce more details on any particular country for which we have reached [an] agreement [with],” Wong said. “This will allow essential travel to resume. Particularly for businesses that are based here in Singapore, where their staff and employees need to have some travel around the region. We can then ensure that Singaporeans can continue to work not just in Singapore, but in places where they need to travel for work.”

Wong stressed the measures were not applicable for anyone planning to go on vacation abroad. “Having these arrangements does not mean we will allow mass market travel. That will take a bit longer,” he said.

The Straits Times previously reported on a May 1 video conference between Singapore’s minister for trade and industry Chan Chun Sing and his counterparts in four countries around the Pacific Rim, namely Australia, Canada, South Korea, and New Zealand. Together, they committed to resuming essential cross-border travel that would maintain global supply chains while safeguarding the health of their citizens.

Wong’s announcement on “travel bubbles” was made a few days before the end of the “circuit breaker” lockdown measures, which are due to expire on June 1. After entering Phase 1, which will open up 75 percent of the Singaporean economy, several weeks of low community transmission rates will be necessary before the country can move to Phase 2. This stage would allow dining in at restaurants for groups of up to five people and the reopening of sports facilities including stadiums and swimming pools. Restrictions on social interactions would be eased somewhat, with Singaporeans able to visit not just family members but also friends and romantic partners, though private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of five people. Should all go well, Wong said Phase 2 could kick in before the end of June.

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