Singapore will make a “fundamental shift” to a full border reopening in due course, as the city-state stresses that recovery of its aviation sector remains its “immediate priority”.
Speaking at a parliamentary debate on his ministry’s budget plans, Singapore transport minister S Iswaran did not provide a timeline for reopening, except to say that it will be worked out with the country’s pandemic taskforce, and depends on “the public health situation in Singapore and the world, among other things”.
The minister’s remarks come more than half a year after Singapore’s launch of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which allows fully-vaccinated travellers to enter the country without quarantine.
The list of countries under the travel scheme has grown to 32 , including Thailand, Malaysia, the USA, Australia, as well as Germany.
Calling the VTL scheme a “first phase” of a “careful and calibrated” border reopening plan, Iswaran adds: “The next phase will entail a more fundamental shift – from Vaccinated Travel Lanes to vaccinated, quarantine-free travel.”
This means all inoculated travellers from “low risk” and “general travel” countries can enter quarantine-free.
“This will effectively reopen our borders to the rest of the world,” the minister adds.
Other countries, including India, Malaysia and Australia, have announced a full border reopening in recent months, ending two years of shut borders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The transport ministry is targeting to restore Changi Airport’s passenger volumes to half of pre-pandemic levels by end-2022, a significant jump from the 15% pre-Covid-19 levels reported in December 2021.
In parliament, Iswaran added that there were already positive signs that the sector was gearing up for recovery. For instance, flag carrier Singapore Airlines has started new cabin crew.
To this end, the minister announced a S$500 million ($368 million) financial support package for the sector, which will include wage support, as well as support for industry transformation efforts.