Covid Checking

Education Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (Nov 10) that Singapore is able to reopen its borders again, but this has to be achieved safely due to the differing levels of infection and danger in the country and around the world.

“Our overall stance towards opening our borders is one where we are in theory prepared to accept further opening up, but it must be achieved securely and with adequate precautions,” he said, explaining the general attitude of the nation on the issue.

Therefore, if the country with which Singapore is in reopening travel discussions has a comparable occurrence rate of Covid-19 infection as Singapore, it might be considered to encourage its travelers to test instead of having to serve a stay-home notice (SHN) or a shortened SHN of approximately seven days at their residence.

However, if the nation has a higher infection incidence and the travelers are deemed to be at higher risk, the Minister added that the maximum 14-day SHN would apply.

“Some of them would be in dedicated facilities and hotels, however we will encourage them to remain at home in certain cases, depending on risk evaluation, but subject to electronic surveillance systems,” he said.

Mr. Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministerial coronavirus task force, replied to concerns from reporters regarding the reopening of Singapore’s boundaries, including travelers from jurisdictions such as South-East Asia, Taiwan and Macau.

The task force reported at Tuesday’s press conference that all inbound travelers from high-risk areas who are not citizens of Singapore or permanent residents would have to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction ( PCR) exam 72 hours prior to their departure.

Mr Wong said that it would be changed from time to time whether areas are low-risk or high-risk.

Asked regarding Indonesia ‘s proposal to propose a regional travel corridor when Asean leaders practically meet at this week’s Vietnam-chaired biannual summit, and if Singapore will accept it, Mr. Wong noted that there were not many concrete specifics to remember.

“The countries in the area have different occurrence rates, different prevalence rates. A similar measure should not be generalized to all the countries in the region,” he added. “We’re also going to look at things nation by country, and extend the same standards to each country.”

He was also questioned why, upon arrival in Singapore, travelers from Macau and Taiwan, both of which have registered zero group cases for some time, still have to fulfill a seven-day SHN.

Actually, upon arrival in Singapore, only travelers from Vietnam, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand and mainland China do not have to serve a SHN. Instead, upon landing here, they are only expected to take a Covid-19 exam.

Mr. Wong said the criteria are “where it is now,” and if Macau and Taiwan stay low-risk, they may be changed later on. The scenario is shifting by the day and he added that Singapore is very closely monitoring developments.

“The risk evaluations are complex and will continuously change. Changes will be made from time to time according to when these particular countries or regions are banded,” he said.

Mr. Wong added that Singapore is eager to negotiate air travel bubbles with areas that are healthy and low-risk or have a comparable Covid-19 occurrence to Singapore.

Singapore has a deal with Hong Kong on a travel bubble that is scheduled to kick in later this month.

It would rely on whether all jurisdictions will come to an understanding, he added, whether further such agreements can be made.

For all the areas that are lower-risk, we do not have travel bubbles so bilateral agreements and reciprocal agreement on both sides are needed. These options continue to be explored.