'Vaccine passports' not a free pass to travel abroad easily: Ong Ye Kung

Countries will have to come to an agreement to recognise the vaccine certificates issued by their counterparts before travel will be allowed.
Countries will have to come to an agreement to recognise the vaccine certificates issued by their counterparts before travel will be allowed.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Having proof of vaccination, or so-called vaccine passports, will not give people a free pass to travel abroad easily, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung during a press conference on Tuesday (May 18), in response to a media query.

Ultimately, countries will have to come to an agreement to recognise the vaccine certificates issued by their counterparts before travel will be allowed, he added.

Mr Ong was responding to a question about whether Singapore has plans to introduce vaccine passports as a condition for travelling in or out of the country.

"I always felt that the concept of a vaccine passport is actually a bit of a misnomer," the minister said at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19, which he co-chairs.

"It gives you the impression that, as with a passport, you can travel to many places. It actually wouldn't work like that."

Explaining how it would work, he said two different regions would assess each other's risk profile, and if it is similar, will form an air travel corridor, like the air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong.

The travel bubble, which will allow quarantine-free travel between both cities, was originally slated to start on Nov 22 last year, but was pushed back to May 26 this year.

It has now been postponed a second time, following a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in Singapore.

Mr Ong said such an arrangement starts with both sides recognising each other's vaccine certificates, after determining that vaccination is carried out using good vaccines and under well-supervised conditions in both places.

Then, both sides will have to decide on policies like whether the quarantine period should be done away with or cut short, among other things.

"What is more likely is a two-step process. Number one, mutual recognition of vaccine certs; and number two, what to do with those vaccine certs, and you confer the appropriate restriction relaxations," he added.

Meanwhile, Singapore and Hong Kong have said they would monitor the public health situation and decide on the new launch date of the air travel bubble.

The authorities are expected to make an announcement towards the end of phase two (heightened alert), which will remain in place until at least June 13.