Coronavirus pandemic

Regional 'travel bubbles' likely in time, says Lawrence Wong

Bilateral agreements will have to be worked out first. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Discussions on special lanes to restart travel within Asean or even a broader bloc within Asia should take place in time to come, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

But bilateral agreements, which are being discussed with various countries, will have to be worked out first to enable the broader regional arrangements.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak, said: "Some of these ideas of green lane and travel bubbles - a lot of discussions are happening now at a bilateral level.

"But in time to come, I am quite sure we can expand it to a regional concept as well."

He was asked at a virtual media conference for an update on Singapore's travel arrangements with other countries, and its plans at a regional level within Asean.

Last week, Singapore had announced plans to launch a "fast lane" arrangement early this month with China to facilitate essential travel for business and official purposes between the two countries.

The arrangement would first apply to Singapore and six provinces or municipalities directly under the Chinese central government - Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

It will be gradually expanded to the other Chinese provinces and municipalities.

The essential idea behind such "fast lanes" is Covid-19 testing from departure, and perhaps at arrival as well, Mr Wong said.

"Then (there is) verification of the test, and... with the test results, then there is no need for a quarantine period. When the person is within the country, we will need some mechanism to be able to track where that person is using TraceTogether," he added, referring to the Government's contact tracing app.

He reiterated that these arran-gements will be limited to essential travel, to control the number of travellers.

Discussions for such lanes are ongoing with countries including South Korea, New Zealand and Malaysia.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2020, with the headline Regional 'travel bubbles' likely in time, says Lawrence Wong. Subscribe