Singapore seeks to rebuild its status as an international aviation hub, and prepares to reach a “new normal” to adapt to COVID-19, the city-state is opening its borders to more countries for quarantine-free travel.
From October 19, fully vaccinated people from eight countries, including Britain, France, Spain and the United States, will be able to enter the island without quarantining if they pass their COVID-19 tests, said the government.
The country of 5.45 million people has been reporting record daily COVID-19 infections of more than 3,000 over the past few days, though almost all the cases are asymptomatic or mild.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore will reach a new normal and can lighten restrictions when cases stabilise, even if they stay in the hundreds.
“It will take us at least three months, and perhaps as long as six months, to get there,” Lee said in an address to the nation.
He added, “After this surge stabilises, we may still see future surges, especially if new variants emerge. We may have to tap on the brakes again if cases again grow too fast, to protect our healthcare system and healthcare workers.”
The government will tighten rules for those who remain unvaccinated from Wednesday. The rules will prohibit them from entering malls and eating at the country’s ubiquitous hawker centres.
Singapore’s travel programme for fully vaccinated people began in September with Germany and Brunei. It will include South Korea from next month.
Up to 3,000 travellers will be able to enter daily through the vaccinated travel lanes.
Philip Goh, Asia-Pacific vice president for the International Air Transport Association said, “We hope this further easing of measures and expansion of Singapore’s border reopening will spur other markets to similarly navigate their pathways towards restarting air travel.”
Singapore’s Changi airport was among the world’s busiest in 2019, with more than 68 million passengers.