Vaccinated S'pore residents travelling to countries with low Covid-19 cases could be exempt from quarantine upon return: Ong Ye Kung

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung urged caution as the coronavirus pandemic was still evolving.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung urged caution as the coronavirus pandemic was still evolving.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore can consider allowing residents who are vaccinated to travel to countries that have low numbers of Covid-19 cases without having to be quarantined on their return, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.

This is another avenue for travel that the Republic is exploring, he said on Wednesday (April 28), as the country prepares to open up a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble with Hong Kong on May 26.

He noted that countries such as Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and the United States have already exempted travellers from Singapore from quarantine, in response to questions from Lianhe Zaobao after an interview on 91.3FM's The Big Show.

With vaccination efforts under way in Britain and the US, the numbers of Covid-19 infections have been going down in those countries, he said in Mandarin, though not to a low enough level for Singapore to reciprocate with quarantine-free travel.

"If they can keep the number of cases quite low - and it doesn't have to go down to zero or one, two cases - we can consider allowing vaccinated Singaporeans to travel to these places. And when they return, they can just get tested instead of being quarantined," he added.

"It won't be considered a travel bubble, but it will be an important avenue to open up some more."

Tickets for flights to and from Hong Kong have been snapped up since the May 26 start date for the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble was announced on Monday.

The travel bubble, initially scheduled to open in November last year but postponed due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong, will allow quarantine-free travel between the two cities, with no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

Travellers have to take designated flights operated by Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Asked if more flights will be added, Mr Ong said it was important to take things one step at a time.

He added: "If the travel bubble works, then we can think about having more flights and even having travel bubbles with other countries. Many people will be watching to see if it succeeds, and if it does, it can serve as a model for other places."

Under the travel bubble, travellers will need to have stayed in Singapore or Hong Kong in the 14 days prior to departure, excluding any time spent serving quarantine or stay-home notice. They will also have to do Covid-19 swab tests on departure and return, among other things.

The minister acknowledged the pent-up demand for travel, but urged caution as the coronavirus pandemic was still evolving.