Covid-19 situation in partner countries monitored daily, context of cases important: Ong Ye Kung

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung stressed that it was critical for Singapore to continue to open up its skies. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore is closely watching the situation in countries it has travel agreements with which are seeing a resurgence in Covid-19 infections, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Even as the case numbers spike in countries such as Germany and Indonesia - with which Singapore has green lane arrangements for business travel - it is important to note where the infections are happening, he said on Thursday (Oct 29).

"In the case of reciprocal green lanes, it is targeted at business travellers. And among these groups, more likely... their case rates are lower," he told The Straits Times.

The risks of importing Covid-19 cases from these countries are further mitigated by other precautions such as Covid-19 testing and a controlled itinerary, he pointed out.

Mr Ong was responding to concerns raised about Singapore's reciprocal green lane for business and official travel with Germany. German authorities had this week announced plans for a lockdown next month after a surge in Covid-19 cases.

"We have to understand where the cases are, and which segment of society is not actually (registering) a high number of cases," he said.

When case numbers soared in Singapore, the country had also faced at one point "perception issues", he noted, even though it had been due largely to the coronavirus spreading in dormitories here.

"When Singapore was having hundreds of Covid-19 cases every day, we were still living life quite normally because we know that in our community, the number of cases is low," he said.

"The truth is there are different segments and different geography in most countries."

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Mr Ong added that Singapore's decision on which countries to have travel arrangements with are backed by analyses by healthcare professionals in the Ministry of Health. Among factors that are studied include a country's level of contact tracing and safe distancing measures.

Mr Ong said he personally checks on the number of Covid-19 cases in several countries daily.

He stressed that it was critical for Singapore to continue to open up its skies even in the current climate.

"If you cut off air connection, we are strangled," he said.

"This is not just about economic growth; this is about making sure that we still have a strong airport, making sure that we still have Singapore Airlines... and making sure that Singapore continues to exist."

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