Coronavirus: Leisure travel not happening any time soon as countries continue to play safe, say experts

Covid-19 transmission could happen on the plane, at the hotel, or at local tourist attractions, experts said. PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - No recreational travel is likely this year or early next year as countries that are still knee-deep in the Covid-19 pandemic continue to play it safe and keep tourists away.

Speaking at the The Straits Times Covid-19 Webinar, Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said: "When we (travel), we end up being exposed to many different factors that are beyond our control."

He noted that Covid-19 transmission could happen on the plane, at the hotel or at local tourist attractions.

Citing the example of Australia, he said the country had almost eliminated its Covid-19 cases last month but has now reported fresh outbreaks in Melbourne and New South Wales.

"If we look at what's happening in Hong Kong and Australia right now, the situation changed very quickly within a matter of two to four weeks.

"So, when it comes to mass market tourism, regrettably, I think we will not be able to travel out of Singapore for the foreseeable future," Prof Teo added.

He suggested taking a staycation on Pulau Ubin or Sentosa instead.

His comments come a few days after National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said leisure travel was unlikely this year, although essential business travel was possible.

Last Friday (July 17), Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19, said it was unlikely that the infection worldwide will disappear by the end of the year; making travel risky.

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But negotiations with countries on reciprocal green lane arrangements will continue, to allow for essential business travel as long as mutual control measures are in place.

Weighing in on the discussion during the webinar, Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital, noted that theoretically, leisure travel is possible between like-minded countries.

The key is trust in each other's health systems and processes, as well as the management and containment of Covid-19 cases.

Prof Fisher said: "For instance, we would be comfortable with China because as soon as they get a case, they will lock down the whole area, swab everyone within a certain radius, and we could be comfortable that China is not going to send any potential Covid-19 cases to Singapore."

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