Singapore plans to set up pilot programs to allow vaccinated business travelers from some countries to enter on controlled itineraries next month, as it charts a cautious international reopening that extends to local virus curbs too.
The island-nation is in talks with Germany, Australia, Canada and South Korea to be the first batch of countries for such arrangements, though it is also looking at the possibility of leisure travel, trade minister Gan Kim Yong told Bloomberg News.
He said factors like infections, vaccination rates and the ability to control outbreaks will be considered in these discussions.
“In the pilot, we are likely to focus more on business travel, but beyond business travel, we are also looking at the possibility of leisure travel, particularly to those safer countries, those with a lower infection rate,” he said.
“We will need to pilot-run some of this with an organized itinerary, probably with organized tour groups, to be able to find ways to bubble-wrap them for the journey and with specific designated places that they can visit.”
Singapore, with a vaccination rate that is among the world’s best according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, is aiming to reopen to the world and emerge from the pandemic relatively unscathed by high hospitalizations and death tolls.
The country is on track to be ahead of its schedule to reach 80% by early September, a milestone where officials have pledged to ease more measures, particularly on border reopening.
Still, such relaxation will be done in a careful manner and local rules on gathering sizes could still be intact for a while as more people enter the country, with Gan saying. “The two are interlinked.”
“If we continue to keep our borders closed and just among ourselves, I think we will be quite ready to open up domestically, but because we are going to open up the border, which is a major effort, and potentially a higher-risk measure, therefore we will need to ensure that domestically within the community we continue to have reasonable basic safe management measures in place.”
Singapore earlier this month approved some easing of virus-related restrictions for vaccinated persons, including dining at restaurants in groups of five for those fully inoculated. The government is also set to announce a loosening of work-from-home rules this week.
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