S'pore in talks to set up 'travel bubbles' with countries where Covid-19 is under control to allow essential travel, no leisure travel yet

Protocols for essential travel would include testing travellers leaving and entering Singapore. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Curbs on essential trips will be progressively lifted amid moves to establish "green lanes" with countries where Covid-19 is under control but mass travel will still be out, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Thursday (May 28).

He noted that mass travel "will take a lot longer to resume, not just in Singapore, but also internationally".

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, said protocols for essential travel would include testing travellers leaving and entering Singapore.

Discussions with other countries to establish "travel bubbles" are at varying stages, with some at more advanced levels while others have only just commenced.

Details will be announced when agreements have been reached.

Mr Wong noted: "And with these testing protocols in place we can have assurance that the traveller is free from infection, and then essential travel can then resume, step by step, depending on the countries that we have established these green lanes or travel bubbles with."

A traveller entering Singapore will get a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction test or, if they have been infected before, a serology test.

If the person flies into Singapore, they may get another test as a single one might not pick up the virus, especially if it is in an incubation period, Mr Wong added.

Similar arrangements will be made for travellers leaving Singapore.

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Visitors here will have to enable the TraceTogether application or carry a wearable dongle to ensure that contact tracing can be done quickly if needed.

These measures will ensure that Singaporeans can continue to work, not just here but in places where they need to travel for business, Mr Wong said.

Talks are already underway with Malaysia.

Mr Wong noted: "For Malaysia, it's also more than just about business travel by air; there's also the issue of workers moving up and down through our land crossing.

"Eventually we will have to see how best to accommodate workers who want to travel between both sides in a safe manner. Again, we'll look at putting in place the necessary protocols, whether it's testing of workers, or for that matter, having them subject to some quarantine arrangements when they come in and out."

However, even after travel restrictions between Malaysia and Singapore are lifted, the situation will not return to how it was before when large volumes of people moved through the land crossings.

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"I don't think either side would want to see that happen without any safeguards or precautions", Mr Wong said.

Allowances are already in place to allow people who are abroad but have family in Singapore to come back.

This is subject to a quota as returnees must serve a 14-day isolation at dedicated facilities, which have limited capacity.

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