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Singapore to relax quarantine rules for travel with China

Philip J. Heijmans Bllomberg | Singapore and China agreed to ease quarantine requirements for business and official travelers, as the countries look to revive essential economic activities disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

For inbound travel to Singapore, travelers sponsored by government agencies may submit applications through their respective sponsors from June 8, according to a joint statement by the ministries of trade and industry and foreign affairs on Wednesday. Applications for company-sponsored travelers will be accepted at a later phase.

The initial agreement applies to travel between Singapore and the Chinese cities and provinces of Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

"This 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," according to the statement.
Singapore's Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the city-state will resume business travels in a "progressive way to balance health and economic considerations." Priority will be given to essential business people and technical personnel needed for critical operations as well as government officials, he said in a Facebook post Wednesday following the announcement.

In a separate Facebook post, Vivian Balakrishnan, minister of foreign affairs, said that Singapore is discussing similar arrangements with other nations. The gradual re-opening of the county's borders will help underpin its position as a safe and reliable business, financial and aviation hub, he added.

Here are the details of how essential travel arrangements between Singapore and China would take shape:

  •  Inbound travelers from China required to have letter of sponsorship from company or government agency in Singapore.
  • With the letter, travelers can apply for a safe travel pass, then a visa if needed.
  • Travelers need to do a polymerase chain reaction test within 48 hours of departure, then another test upon arrival, at their own cost.
  • Travelers must remain in isolation for one to two days until the test result is known.
  • The host company or government agency shall ensure that the travelers to Singapore use the TraceTogether app for the duration of their stay.
  • Travelers from Singapore to China will only be allowed to travel outside the six fast lane regions after staying in those regions for 14 days.
  • The travelers may not use most public transportation.

The Southeast Asian nation this week began relaxing some restrictions from its almost two-month long "circuit-breaker," allowing more businesses to reopen and increasing the active proportion of the economy to three-quarters. The move came as the situation in heavily-impacted foreign worker dormitories stabilized and new community cases of the virus declined significantly.

Singapore confirmed 569 new covid-19 infections Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to over 36,000.

Singapore has been in talks to establish "travel bubbles" with countries which have controlled their epidemics, including Malaysia, New Zealand and South Korea, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on Monday. Both sides would need to agree on a "green lane protocol" that entails a testing strategy and quarantine and contact tracing mechanisms, Wong said.

"A lot of discussions are happening now at a bilateral level, but in time to come I am quite sure we can expand it to a regional concept as well," he said.

Singapore's move follows similar actions taken by China and South Korea that also sought to simplify entry procedures for business travelers. South Korean business staff will be able to travel to 10 Chinese regions after going through health screening and quarantine measures.

Beijing has been pressing other countries for such reciprocity as the number of coronavirus cases has dwindled in some parts of the world.