Singapore is now trialling a 'fast lane' for business travellers which removes the need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the city-state.
The arrangement initially applies to travel for business and official government purposes between Singapore and the Chinese provinces or municipalities of Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
China, where the coronavirus first emerged, appears to have brought its cases under control, while Singapore is moving toward opening its economy after wrestling to contain an outbreak among thousands of foreign workers.
It's seen as a potential precursor for carefully reopening international trade and travel, ahead of measures such as the proposed 'green lane' to countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
The Singaporean government said the move to pilot fast lane arrangements with other countries "is part of Singapore's gradual reopening of our borders for Singaporeans and residents to conduct essential activities overseas and to allow safe travel for foreigners entering Singapore in limited numbers, with the necessary safeguards in place to ensure public health considerations are addressed."
Singapore is prepared to work bilaterally with countries and regions if there are sufficient precautions, such as testing before departure and upon arrival, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong. Singapore will also take into consideration factors including infection rates in countries and the types of precautions in place.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said last week that similar discussions were ongoing with other countries.
“Mutual assurance and confidence to put in place effective COVID-19 prevention and control measures are important in such fast lane arrangements, and I look forward to making progress with more countries in our bilateral discussions,” he said.
How Singapore's 'fast lane' works
Fast lane travellers must be tested for Covid-19 two days before their trip, and travel wit a health certificate stating they have tested negative for Covid-19. A second test will be conducted upon landing in Singapore.
Travellers must then remain in isolation at their own expense for 1-2 days until the test result is known – and if the test comes back as positive, they will be hospitalised at their own expense.
But even before getting onto that flight, they need to have government approval to travel and submit an itinerary for the trip.
Once in Singapore, they're not allowed to take public transport such as the MRT and buses, which means that all travel must be via taxi, ride-share services such as Grab, or with hire cars or other transport provided by their company.
They'll also need to have download Singapore's TraceTogether app onto their smartphone and keep it active for the duration of their stay.
Lockdown measures are starting to ease across many Asian countries. Singapore ministers have previously said the nation will likely “start small and selectively” for any border reopening, while continuing to impose a mix of isolation and test requirements.
Still no transits at Changi
However, although Singapore Airlines this week began increasing flights to Australia and the rest of the world, rebuilding a network crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, passengers remain unable to change flights at Changi Airport – despite the government dropping its transit ban as of June 2.
The delay has been caused by the strict requirements which the airport needs to put in place to keep transit passengers separated from inbound and outbound travellers.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, instead of browsing the duty-free shops or kicking back in the airline lounge, transit passengers must "remain in designated facilities in the transit area and not mix with other passengers whilst at Changi Airport."
Changi Airport is still working through putting those 'transit lane' arrangements in place for individual airlines, although Executive Traveller understands that Singapore Airlines is hopeful that it can resume carrying transit passengers in the coming weeks.
For the time being, this has reduced Singapore Airlines to being a point-to-point airline, although travel restrictions in place in both Australia and Singapore have understandably shifted the airline's flying focus from passengers to cargo.