Aim to establish more quarantine-free travel lanes

Singapore is committed to steadily reopening its borders and aims to set up more quarantine-free travel agreements, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said in Parliament on Monday as the Asian country looks beyond the rising number of coronavirus cases. 

Passenger traffic will improve this year at Singapore’s Changi Airport after reaching about 15% of pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2021 from 3% a year ago, though a full recovery will likely “several years,” Iswaran said. 

“Our goal is to restore quarantine-free travel with more countries and regions as allowed for by the public health assessment,” he said. “We remain confident of the long-term potential of air travel and are resolutely committed to working with Changi Airport Group and airline partners to rebuild and reclaim Singapore’s status as an international air hub.” 

Changi Airport, voted the world’s best airport for eight years in a row until 2020, saw traffic pick up in the latter part of 2021 after Singapore established so-called vaccinated travel lanes with about two dozen countries. They allow fully-vaccinated travelers to enter the city-state without having to quarantine. 

Rankings Unchanged

Singapore to be second-busiest for international traffic in Asia in 2021

Sources: Hong Kong International Airport, Incheon International Airport, Changi Airport – Note: 2021 figures are for January-November period

Ticket sales for the lanes have been on hold since Dec. 23 as Singapore tries to address the local spread of the highly contagious omicron coronavirus variant. Authorities have imposed stricter testing measures and plan to restart sales later this month. Frontline airport workers and Singapore Airlines Ltd. crew arriving from affected regions face additional testing, Iswaran said. Changi has also upgraded its ventilation system, installing more HEPA-purifiers, he said.

Singapore has had about 2,600 imported cases of omicron, 32% of which came from the U.S. and U.K. alone, and another 10% from India, Iswaran said. 

Speaking in Parliament earlier, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the borders couldn’t be closed as that would “cause tremendous suffering.” And he called on people to get vaccinated.   Some 91% of the eligible population in Singapore is fully vaccinated. Singapore has reported more than 285,000 Covid-19 cases in total and 838 deaths.