SINGAPORE - The rules have been set for essential business travel between Singapore and China, as part of plans to slowly ease restrictions on flights and resume trade amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Under the Singapore-China "fast lane" agreement, which will start next Monday (June 8), travellers on both sides will be exempt from rules that require everyone else to serve quarantine periods of up to 14 days, the Singapore Government said on Wednesday.
But they must first agree to be tested and bear the costs. If they are found to be infected with Covid-19 upon landing in Singapore or China, they will be hospitalised and will have to pay for their own treatment.
For a start, the new scheme will apply only to business and official travel, for flights between Singapore and six provinces in China: Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
Travellers will have to jump through several hoops before getting onto a flight.
The business organisation or the government entity sponsoring the trip must apply for approval from the authorities on the behalf of the traveller.
Travellers must also submit an itinerary that must be adhered to. Applications open on June 8.
Travellers from China must do a Covid-19 swab test 48 hours before departure, and another swab test when they land at Changi Airport.
Upon entry into Singapore, the traveller must remain in isolation in accommodations at a non-residential address they have sourced themselves and declared, for one to two days until the test result is known.
In addition, travellers may not take mass public transport such as the MRT and buses. They are allowed to get around only in private hire cars/taxis or transport provided by their company.
They will also have to download the TraceTogether app for the duration of their stay. If a traveller does not have a TraceTogether-compatible device, the host company or government agency should provide one.
Similar rules will apply to Singapore travellers going to China.
There will also be a limit on the number of people who have their trips approved.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a joint statement that the move to pilot fast lane arrangements with other countries comes in conjunction with the move towards reopening after the circuit breaker.
The statement said: "This is part of Singapore's gradual reopening of our borders for Singaporeans and residents to conduct essential activities overseas and to allow safe travel for foreigners entering Singapore in limited numbers, with the necessary safeguards in place to ensure public health considerations are addressed."
MFA and MTI added that Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders returning to Singapore from China must monitor their health and comply with the prevailing health measures.
To facilitate immigration clearance on their arrival, they must show a copy of the letter approving their trip issued by the government authority in China.
Currently, China is allowing each Singapore carrier to fly only to one city in China once a week. Singapore Airlines now flies to Shanghai, Scoot to Guangzhou and SilkAir to Chongqing.
There are currently no flights to the capital, Beijing.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said last week that similar travel discussions were ongoing with other countries including South Korea, New Zealand and Malaysia.
On Wednesday, he said in a Facebook post that priority for the resumption of essential business travel will be given to essential business people, technical personnel for critical operations and government officials.
"Mutual assurance and confidence to put in place effective COVID-19 prevention and control measures are important in such fast lane arrangements, and I look forward to making progress with more countries in our bilateral discussions," he said.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chair of the task force to combat Covid-19, said more recently that discussions to resume travel within Asean or even a broader bloc within Asia should take place in time to come.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in another Facebook post on Wednesday evening that the fast lane arrangement represented "some light at the end of the tunnel", though it will be a long time before life returns to near normal.
He added: "However, recreational travel will have to take a back seat for now."