For nearly two years now, the hotel, travel and retail sectors here have taken a drubbing from the Covid-19 outbreak. At least 157 licensed travel agents bowed out between January last year and September this year, as did 8,600 retail businesses - 330 more than during the corresponding period between 2018 and 2019. So news of the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport must come as a welcome reprieve to many businesses, as are additional VTLs with Finland and Sweden, and relaxed border measures with several South-east Asian countries. The daily quota of vaccinated travellers who can enter Singapore across the entire VTL scheme will go up from 4,000 to 6,000.
These steps are not just about restoring Changi's hub status or reuniting families, although both are important. They will also regularise the flow of workers, tourists, goods and materials - and help curb rising business costs from the supply crunch. Opening up borders, together with allowances for larger dine-in groups, will boost footfall to food and beverage and retail outlets, bring back buzz, and restore a degree of normality in local business activity. The latest moves are also critical to Singapore's economic connectivity to the world. Multinationals and small and medium-sized enterprises alike can use the Republic as a launchpad to resume in-person interactions with their counterparts abroad.