New measures and procedures such as compulsory testing will be put in place as Singapore looks to progressively ease restrictions on essential business travel. The plan is to establish "green lanes" and "travel bubbles" with countries where Covid-19 is under control, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
He stressed, though, that mass travel will still be out.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, said protocols for essential travel would include tes-ting travellers leaving and entering Singapore.
"With these testing protocols in place, we can have assurance that the traveller is free from infection, and then essential travel can resume, step by step, depending on the countries that we have established these green lanes or travel bubbles with," he said.
A traveller entering Singapore will first have to undergo a pre-departure Covid-19 test to determine if he is infected, or a serology test if he had been infected before. On arrival here, another test might have to be done, Mr Wong said.
Visitors will also have to download the TraceTogether app 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.
He noted that while these protocols will allow essential travel to resume, mass travel "will take a lot longer to resume, not just in Singapore, but also internationally".
The discussions with other countries to establish "travel bubbles" and "green lanes" are currently at varying stages, with some at more advanced levels while others have just commenced, he added.
Details will be announced when agreements have been reached.
Essential work travel agreements are given priority because these are important for the economy, for businesses and to protect jobs for Singaporeans, Mr Wong said.
"Because if a business says, 'Look, my people cannot move around, then I might as well relocate to another country', then jobs will be lost."
Still, Mr Wong stressed that even with such arrangements, the number of travellers will be limited and quotas set. "We will have to prioritise who can travel for such reasons."
For those who have family members or spouses who are living overseas, allowances are already in place to allow people to come back, Mr Wong said.
This is subject to a quota as returnees must serve a 14-day isolation at dedicated facilities, which have limited capacity.
He added: "So, as we look at the situation, if our facilities expand... if our testing capacity expands, then potentially the daily quota for returnees coming back can increase as well over time."