Singapore Eyes Visitor Pilot Programs as Border Inches Open

By BLOOMBERG

Singapore is considering pilot programs to allow groups of vaccinated travelers to enter the country on carefully controlled itineraries as it moves toward reopening its border, according to the trade minister.

“We continue to look at countries including the U.S., U.K., Australia and so on to explore possibilities of opening up,” Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s trade and industry minister, told Haslinda Amin in a Bloomberg Television interview Tuesday. The country may start with pilot arrangements for travelers “bubble wrapped to prevent transmission of the disease,” particularly for vaccinated visitors.

A more extensive reopening, however, would depend on countries around the world controlling the pandemic, he cautioned.

“It will also require the whole world’s infection to come under control because Singapore is an open economy,” Gan said, when asked when the country can have bigger gathering sizes and longer opening hours for restaurants. “It’s important for us to bear in mind that infections will continue until the whole world is safe, and also we have to bear in mind that vaccines today, although it is very effective against severe diseases, it is somewhat less effective to prevent transmission.”

Reopening

The city-state aims to relax more virus curbs, including starting to allow quarantine-free travel in September, when 80% of its population is expected to be fully vaccinated. The high inoculation rate will allow authorities to ease measures, officials have said.

As Singapore’s rate of full vaccination rises further from the current 76%, which is among the world’s best according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, the government has given some signs about what a cautious reopening could look like through year-end. At the same time, the city-state has worked to control recent case clusters and keep serious hospitalizations at a manageable level.

As part of a strategy to treat Covid as an endemic presence in coming years, 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 set to announce a loosening of work-from-home rules this week.

The easing of restrictions comes at a turbulent time for a region battling the delta variant. A raft of disappointing Chinese economic data Monday — on top of another port closure there last week following a positive virus test — added to signs that Asian trade powerhouses could be losing one of their economic lifelines.

Singapore last week upgraded its 2021 GDP forecast to 6%-7%, predicated on a stable global recovery and further easing of border and domestic restrictions through year-end. Gan said Tuesday that he is confident Singapore would achieve these projections.