Singapore pushes ahead with border relaxation


Changi air hub is among the worst-hit segments of the Singapore economy (photo courtesy Unsplash).


Singapore is pushing ahead with a reopening of its borders with the announcement this week that visitors from Australia and Vietnam will be allowed into the city with no quarantine restrictions.


Visitors from the two countries, excluding Australia's state of Victoria, will be allowed to arrive in Singapore from October 8. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) both countries have successfully controlled the spread of Covid-19 and have comprehensive public health surveillance systems in place.


Vietnam has had zero infections over the last four weeks while Australia, excluding Victoria, has also recorded a low virus incidence rate.


Residents of both countries will be able to apply for an Air Travel Pass from Thursday October 1 and travel will recommence on October 8.


Entry requirements include a swab test on arrival and all visitors will be required to use Singapore’s TraceTogether app for the duration of their stay.


However, there has been no relaxation of quarantine requirements for returning residents into either Vietnam or Australia. Vietnam has a suspension in place the entry of all foreigners and overseas Vietnamese and Australia has limited overseas travel since March - residents currently have to apply for a permit to leave the country and all returning Australian residents are expected to carry out a mandatory 14-day hotel-based quarantine. International flights into the country have been severely capped.


In a Facebook post on September 30, Singapore’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung said he had been in contact with Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, and Vietnam’s ambassador to Singapore, Tao Thi Than, regarding the relaxation. He said he believed both countries will consider reciprocating the lifting of restrictions to travellers from Singapore “when the time is right”.


Australian premier Scott Morrison this week said he was considering relaxing quarantine restrictions for overseas arrivals, including replacing hotel quarantine with home isolation for those travelling from ‘safe’ nations. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan were named as some of the countries that Australia could consider relaxing its requirements for. Morrison also spoke of a travel bubble with New Zealand in which visitors from both nations would no longer need to quarantine.


Singapore has also relaxed border restrictions with Brunei and New Zealand. Restrictions were lifted on September 8 and CAAS has approved more than 330 travel applications from the two countries. Of 136 arrivals, nobody has so far tested positive for Covid-19.


Thailand will also be welcoming its first overseas visitors since March next week when a group of 120 Chinese tourists arrive on the island of Phuket. They will be required to complete 14 days of quarantine, but reports in the Bangkok Post this week suggest a shortened quarantine period to seven days is already being proposed.

“We can study this with foreign visitors who will arrive (next week),” said Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Disease Health Science Centre. “During the 14-day quarantine they will be tested on the first, seventh and the fourteenth day. If they are free of infections, we can shorten the quarantine to seven days.”


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