Singapore to resume essential business travel with China

The scheme will apply to business and official travel between Singapore and six Chinese provinces.
The scheme will apply to business and official travel between Singapore and six Chinese provinces.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Similar 'fast lane' arrangements being explored with other countries and regions

More planes are set to take flight, with Singapore agreeing to resume essential business and official travel with China and exploring similar "fast lane" arrangements with a few other countries and regions.

New Zealand could be the next in line, The Straits Times understands, as Singapore gradually reopens its borders for Singaporeans and residents to do business overseas. The Republic will also allow foreigners to enter its borders safely, in limited numbers.

Yesterday, the authorities revealed plans to slowly ease travel restrictions. The Covid-19 outbreak has virtually paralysed international travel since earlier this year.

The Singapore-China "fast lane" agreement announced yesterday is among the first steps in the region to break the logjam. It will enable travellers from both sides to fly into each other's countries without serving quarantine periods of up to 14 days.

Instead, they must take a Covid-19 swab test 48 hours before departure and after they land. They must also submit detailed itineraries, and the business organisations or government entities sponsoring them must file applications on their behalf.

Approved travellers coming into Singapore must download the TraceTogether app and cannot travel by public transport.

Similar rules will apply to Singapore travellers going to China.

It will be announced later whether Singapore travellers will have to serve stay-home notices upon their return.

Explaining why China was picked for Singapore's first "travel bubble", Mr Gabriel Lim, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said: "China is one of our biggest trading partners. We are also one of the largest sources of foreign investment in China. There are thousands of people working in each other's economy. There are even more people who travel for official and business reasons between the two countries."

 
 
 

China has also initiated a travel bubble with Seoul, with several preconditions in place.

For a start, the new scheme will apply only to business and official travel, for flights between Singapore and six areas in China: Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

Applications for travel will begin next Monday. There will also be a limit on the number of people who have their trips approved.

Currently, China is allowing each Singapore carrier to fly to only one city in China once a week. Singapore Airlines now flies to Shanghai, Scoot to Guangzhou and SilkAir to Chongqing.

There are currently no flights to the capital city Beijing.

"Singapore has explored the piloting of fast lane arrangements with a few other countries and regions," said the Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry ministries in a joint statement. New Zealand is understood to be among them.

The move could help the Singapore Airlines group, with only a tiny percentage of its fleet currently flying passengers and the rest either grounded or carrying cargo.

Beyond that, Changi Air Hub, which has been contributing more than 5 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and employing 192,000 people, has also been hit.

 
 

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in a Facebook post that priority for the resumption of travel will be given to essential business people, technical personnel for critical operations and government officials.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also said in a Facebook post that the new arrangement represents "some light at the end of the tunnel", even though it will be long before life returns to near normal.

He added: "However, recreational travel will have to take a back seat for now."

Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie said it was difficult to predict when mass travel will return, but added: "The green lane can be seen as a first cautious step and over time it may lead to less restrictive travel between Singapore and China."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore to resume essential business travel with China'. Print Edition | Subscribe