Coronavirus: Singapore

Pilot for quarantine-free business travel delayed until at least Feb 21: Sources

Ongoing construction work at Connect@Changi's courtyard. The facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria is almost complete and is expected to receive its first guests under the Connect@Singapore segregated travel lane from Feb 21.
Ongoing construction work at Connect@Changi's courtyard. The facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria is almost complete and is expected to receive its first guests under the Connect@Singapore segregated travel lane from Feb 21.PHOTO: CONNECT@ CHANGI/FACEBOOK

A pilot programme allowing short-term business travellers to stay, work and meet at dedicated facilities here without the need for quarantine has been delayed until at least Feb 21, The Straits Times has learnt.

The first travellers under the Connect@Singapore segregated travel lane were supposed to be allowed into Singapore from the second half of last month, but the first dedicated facility for these visitors is now expected to open for check-in only from Feb 21, sources told ST.

Finishing touches are being put to the first phase of the Connect@Changi facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria, which is the only place earmarked as a possible dedicated facility for the Connect@Singapore scheme so far.

Under this scheme, business, official and high-economic value travellers on short-term stays of up to 14 days will be put in a "bubble" away from the community and housed within dedicated facilities such as the one at Singapore Expo.

Those who opt to use this arrangement - likely the first of its kind in the world - will be transported from the airport to these dedicated facilities, and must undergo regular testing and observe all safe management measures.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), which is overseeing the pilot scheme, did not say why it has been delayed.

An MTI spokesman would say only that the start date for applications for the scheme will be "broadly aligned with the estimated operational start date of the first Connect@Singapore facility".

The Singapore Tourism Board's executive director for infrastructure planning and management, Mr Chew Tiong Heng, said assessments on the first facility are at the final stage. No reservations have been taken from travellers yet.

Temasek, which is leading a local consortium that is developing the Connect@Changi facility, declined to give an exact date when asked when the facility would be up and running.

But a post by Connect@Changi's official Facebook page last Saturday said construction work on the four-star facility is almost complete. It will initially have 670 guest rooms and 170 meeting rooms, and will increase the capacity to 1,300 guest rooms and 340 meeting rooms by the middle of this year. Temasek said it remains on track to launch the first phase by this quarter.

Announced on Dec 15 last year, the Connect@Singapore initiative was meant to complement other travel lanes that have already been established, such as reciprocal green lane (RGL) arrangements.

It is distinct from the RGL arrangements, which apply only to selected countries but allow those on essential business here to move about more freely.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2021, with the headline 'Pilot for quarantine-free business travel delayed until at least Feb 21: Sources'. Subscribe