US V-P Kamala Harris to face regular Covid-19 testing, controlled itinerary on S'pore visit

Kamala Harris is slated to arrive in Singapore on Aug 22, 2021, before heading to Vietnam on Aug 24.
Kamala Harris is slated to arrive in Singapore on Aug 22, 2021, before heading to Vietnam on Aug 24.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - United States Vice-President Kamala Harris will be subject to regular Covid-19 testing and a controlled itinerary to keep her upcoming visit to Singapore safe, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (Aug 19).

Ms Harris is slated to arrive in Singapore on Sunday before heading to Vietnam on Aug 24.

During a Thursday press conference, reporters asked Singapore's multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 about the pandemic protocols for Ms Harris and her delegation.

Mr Ong said the 56-year-old - who is making her first trip outside the Americas since being sworn into office in January - and her team would have to undergo frequent testing and be restricted to an itinerary of safer areas.

"It will (also) be subject to an itinerary that is restricted to areas that are safer, where the delegation will not come into contact with, for example, many seniors, such as (at) a home… so all this is out of bounds," he said, adding that Singapore was honoured that Ms Harris was making the Republic her first stop in her first trip to Asia.

Ms Harris' visit comes on the heels of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin's late-July trip to Singapore and the region.

Mr Ong noted that this would not be the first visit to Singapore by a foreign dignitary during the pandemic.

"In the past, we have had other dignitaries and we subject them to similar healthcare protocols," he said, adding that it would not be practical to subject them to stay-home notice (SHN) requirements.

"Instead, as a principle, we know that we can always replace SHN with tests. Technically if you test every day, so long as it's negative every day, you know that it's safe for the person to move around," Mr Ong said.

"We can't do that for the entire population and therefore SHN and quarantine is often the other way for us to implement a nationwide healthcare measure."

Ms Harris, who is the first female and first person of colour to hold the second-highest office in the US, is expected to meet Singapore leaders and discuss ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in multiple areas.

Covid-19, climate change, the digital economy and security will be top of the agenda, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan earlier this week.