Coronavirus: Fast lanes based on multiple factors in partner countries

Singapore entered into a fast lane agreement with China and is also discussing similar partnerships with other countries such as New Zealand.
Singapore entered into a fast lane agreement with China and is also discussing similar partnerships with other countries such as New Zealand.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Singapore will review its fast lane arrangements and discussions with other countries based on the broad Covid-19 situations in those places and not on isolated flare-ups of new cases, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said.

This is because there are various other measures, such as testing requirements for travellers, that help mitigate the risks, he added.

Mr Wong was responding to a question at a virtual Covid-19 briefing about how a second wave of coronavirus infections in other countries could affect discussions over fast lane arrangements.

Noting that the situation is dynamic, he said: "Just because there is a flare-up of a few cases doesn't mean that we immediately put a stop to the fast lane arrangements. "I think our broad assessment is that if the infection situation in that country broadly remains under control and the flare-up of the cases is not overwhelming their hospital systems... then it's not something that will stop us from continuing with the fast lane arrangements that we have worked out with these countries."

Mr Wong added that the partner country should be able to continue with effective contact tracing to contain the new cases.

On May 29, Singapore announced that it had entered into a fast lane agreement with China, to allow essential business travel between the Republic and six provinces in China - without the need for travellers to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival.

Singapore is also discussing similar partnerships with other countries such as New Zealand.

Under the Singapore-China deal, travellers have to be tested for Covid-19 before departure and upon arrival, and follow a controlled itinerary, among several other requirements.

Singapore residents must serve a 14-day stay-home notice and be tested again for Covid-19 when they return from China. Mr Wong said: "The arrangements do come with their own safety protocols. It's not about unrestrained travel."

The Ministry of Trade and Industry told The Straits Times last week it has seen "strong positive interest from business travellers" in the fast lane arrangement with China since it was launched on June 8. For inbound travel from China, applications are currently open for official and business travellers applying through government agencies.

A spokesman said: "We will introduce company-sponsored open applications at a later phase.

"For outbound travellers, the relevant Chinese government authorities from the six provinces will assess each application on a case-by-case basis."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2020, with the headline 'Fast lanes based on multiple factors in partner countries'. Subscribe