Singapore will ease travel restrictions on visitors from Brunei and New Zealand from Sept 1, in a small but significant step towards reviving an ailing Changi air hub battered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Travellers who have stayed in those two countries in the last consecutive 14 days before their visit to Singapore will not have to serve a stay-home notice. They will be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival at the airport instead.
The Republic will also allow people here to travel to these two countries, although travellers are advised to check entry requirements imposed by the destination country, and take necessary precautionary measures.
These are among the border control measures that will be eased, the Government announced yesterday as it laid out plans to further reopen Singapore's borders and economy in a safe way.
Visitors from Brunei and New Zealand will need to apply for an Air Travel Pass between seven and 30 days before their intended date of arrival here. Applications for the pass will start on Sept 1, which is also when students studying overseas will be allowed to travel.
Incoming travellers from certain low-risk places will serve a shorter stay-home notice of seven days, down from 14 days. Places in this category include Australia (excluding Victoria state), China, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, said the Covid-19 situation around the world is still very fluid, and that Singapore will update its border control measures based on its latest assessment.
"We know that some places have been able to control the infection effectively, and the risk of importation is low," he said. "Our assessment is that there is no need for a stay-home notice requirement for travellers from these low-risk places, and a Covid-19 test will be sufficient."
Singapore is starting cautiously, with visitors from the two countries, he said.
Separately, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told reporters that Singapore's aviation sector is closely linked to the whole economy. "So we need to really start to take steps to open up in a safe manner that can revive Changi Airport, resuscitate the aviation sector," he said.
In Singapore, restrictions on activities will also be eased. For instance, exercise classes conducted by instructors will be allowed to take place at more open spaces in SportSG sport centres and Housing Board areas from Sept 1. The 1m safe distancing requirement will also be waived in specific settings, such as on public transport or in lifts.
But the task force also stressed the importance of staying vigilant to control the spread of Covid-19.
On this front, crowd control will be beefed up at Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza - two malls that attract large crowds on weekends. From Aug 29, visitors on weekends with an even last digit on their identity cards can visit these malls only on even dates, while those with an odd last digit can visit only on odd dates.
Professor Leo Yee Sin, executive director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), said a balanced and risk-managed approach is needed for Singapore to progressively regain connectivity with other parts of the world.
NCID studies and analyses available information with the Ministry of Health to calibrate action plans, she said, adding: "This is a dynamic process and will be closely monitored and adjusted along the way with the aim of establishing a safer way to physically connect with the region and globally."
But she added that preventive measures currently in place within the local community must continue to ensure that community transmission is contained.