Singapore to watch for rising Covid-19 infections as it gears up to reopen borders: Gan Kim Yong

Singapore is looking to let in vaccinated business travellers from Australia, Canada, Germany and South Korea, as part of pilot arrangements to progressively reopen borders.
Singapore is looking to let in vaccinated business travellers from Australia, Canada, Germany and South Korea, as part of pilot arrangements to progressively reopen borders.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - As Singapore works to reopen its borders for business and leisure travel, it expects the number of Covid-19 infections to rise, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Wednesday (Aug 18).

The country will keep a close eye on the situation to ensure that healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed, he added.

"We will have to continue to put in place reasonable basic safe management measures domestically to ensure that infections can be kept under control even with more travellers coming in," Mr Gan wrote in a LinkedIn post summing up an interview with Bloomberg News.

"Any further relaxation of safe management measures in the community will also depend on how well we manage the reopening of our borders and whether we are able to ensure there isn't a huge increase in infections."

He told Bloomberg that Singapore is looking to let in vaccinated business travellers from Australia, Canada, Germany and South Korea, as part of pilot arrangements to progressively reopen borders.

The aim is to get 80 per cent of the population vaccinated by early September, following which more pandemic restrictions can be eased, he said.

Singapore is also looking at how to facilitate leisure travel with a controlled itinerary, the minister added.

"We are working closely with a number of countries and will look at factors such as infection numbers, vaccination rates and the ability to control outbreaks in our discussions with them," he said in his post.

Mr Gan elaborated on these points in his interview with Bloomberg, where he also discussed Singapore's economic growth and United States Vice-President Kamala Harris' upcoming visit.

Asked under what circumstances the country would tighten restrictions again, he replied that it depends on factors such as the number of severe Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalisation.

If Singapore sees an exponential growth in such cases, it will likely face problems with hospital capacity, he said. But if the country can slow the growth rate of such cases, it will be able to grow its hospital capacity as it goes along.

"We have sufficient (hospital) capacity at the moment, but we should not take that for granted," he added. "All over the world, when a new wave comes about, we see cases rise exponentially. And that is what we are trying to avoid."

On the topic of travel, Mr Gan said Singapore is in discussions with "quite a number of countries", and is keeping its options open. It will be looking to work with countries that are able to keep infections under control and have high vaccination rates.

He was also asked about Singapore's position on giving Covid-19 booster shots.

The issue is being studied by the 14-member Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination, which is examining data emerging around the world, Mr Gan replied. "In time to come, we may introduce booster shots, particularly for those who are immunocompromised."