Singapore is pressing ahead with plans to reopen its borders despite battling a record COVID-19 outbreak, saying it will allow vaccinated travelers from nine more countries including the US and UK to enter without having to quarantine.
The other places to qualify are Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain with travel to Singapore to start from Oct. 19 and South Korea from Nov. 15, the government said Saturday.The move marks a significant step in Singapore’s reopening after it shifted away from a “COVID Zero” approach that’s still being pursued by the likes of Hong Kong, another Asian financial hub.
It comes as Singapore battles an escalation in COVID cases, with more than 3,000 new infections reported four days in a row this week. But is backed by the city-state’s high vaccination rate, with close to 85 percent of the population fully inoculated and most of the infections mild.
Singapore already allows quarantine-free travel from so-called Category I places like China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, though most of those places haven’t reciprocated. Under the vaccinated travel lane arrangements in place with Germany and Brunei close to 2,000 travelers have entered Singapore and there have been only two COVID-19 cases detected at the point of arrival.
Already, Singapore has shortened quarantine periods for travelers from several countries including the US from Oct. 7. The government was under pressure from American officials to remove the requirement to isolate completely, people familiar with the matter said, partly because travelers from Singapore could more freely enter the US, the island nation’s biggest foreign investor.
Reviving Air Hub
The government is eager to restore connectivity given the importance of aviation, tourism and business to the trade-reliant economy. Passenger traffic at Changi Airport, a key international hub for travel and cargo, was just 2 percent of pre-COVID levels in the first eight months of this year, while Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s passenger numbers are a tiny fraction of what they were in 2019.
Changi Airport posted its first annual net loss in the year through March because of the pandemic and flag-carrier Singapore Airlines has suffered hefty losses.