Singapore to let in more travellers to help retain air hub status: Chan Chun Sing

The reopening of borders will be done in a controlled manner so as not to overwhelm Singapore's healthcare system and contact tracing capabilities. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - More travellers will be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore as part of efforts to reconnect to the world and preserve the Republic's status as an air hub.

But the reopening of borders will be done in a controlled manner so as not to overwhelm Singapore's healthcare system and contact tracing capabilities, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Monday (Dec 14).

"With enhanced testing and tracing capabilities, we will be able to pilot more surgical ways to manage the risks for travellers," he added.

"For logistics, we will maintain our air, land and sea links with the world to perform our role as a critical supply chain node for global logistics to flow through."

Mr Chan noted how Singapore has not imposed export restrictions which would have benefited itself but affected the global supply chain amid the raging pandemic.

This has shown the world that the Republic will honour its word even in a crisis, and that it will do its best to keep the global supply chain moving, he added.

This rebuilding of Singapore's air hub is one of the four key strategies that the Government is adopting as it seeks to tackle the economic challenges brought about by Covid-19, said Mr Chan.

He was speaking during a virtual press conference by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force on Singapore's plans as it moves into the third phase of eased circuit breaker measures.

Mr Chan said the recovery next year is expected to be gradual and uneven because of recurrent waves of infections in other countries. This is compounded by uncertainties about the pace of vaccine production, distribution and implementation.

Mr Chan also said that the Government expects many sectors of Singapore's economy to be permanently changed, including in struggling areas such as tourism and aviation.

"We will not return to the pre-Covid world," he said.

"We should pivot to seize new opportunities and overcome the current challenges starting now."

On top of reopening Singapore's skies, the second way in which the Government will look to achieve this is to resume economic activity safely and progressively, said Mr Chan.

He noted that phase three of Singapore's reopening will allow more businesses and activities to resume. For example, attractions will be able to increase their total capacity from 50 per cent to 65 per cent, and malls will be able to accept more visitors.

"For those that have not been able to resume operations, we will continue to work closely with them to pilot commercially viable and new ways to do so," he said.

The top priority will be to keep people safe while providing continuity and confidence for businesses to attract investment and serve the global markets, Mr Chan added.

The third way in which the Republic will seek to help its economy recover from the pandemic will be to adopt a "clear, consistent, coherent and facilitative posture to attract high-value, long-term investment to be planted in Singapore".

Mr Chan said this approach has helped to attract investment from companies such as Hyundai even during the pandemic.

He added: "Our plans include seizing the opportunities across diverse group sectors such as advanced manufacturing, financial services, infocomm and media, agri-tech and others.

"In the coming months, we will progressively announce our plans for the respective sectors to power our next step of economic development."

Fourthly, Singapore will continue to diversify its product and food supply chains, as well as markets to make itself more resilient to disruptions, said Mr Chan.

This will be done by reviewing local food production capabilities and expanding Singapore's network of free trade agreement areas, among other things.

Mr Chan said: "In conclusion, we must never get complacent and let our guard down.

"Otherwise complacency will deal us a fate no different from countries which have suffered from recurring waves of infections that have further disrupted their economic recovery."

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