(Bloomberg) -- Singapore is looking to launch new vaccinated travel lanes by the end of the year and is in negotiations with several countries including those in Europe and also the U.S., Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong said, signaling continued caution even as other advanced economies open up.
Gan, who is one of the co-chairs of the government’s virus taskforce, said that Singapore is hopeful it can unveil new vaccinated travel lanes “by end of the year or even earlier” given that pilots with Germany and Brunei have gone smoothly.
“Vaccinated travel lanes are going to play an increasingly important role in international travel,” he told Bloomberg News in an interview on Monday. “As more and more countries ramp up their vaccination rate this will become a reality because most countries will begin to insist on the vaccination before they allow travelers to enter the country.”
While Australia is moving away from Covid-Zero isolation by lifting a ban on international travel earlier than anticipated, Singapore is focusing on gradually opening borders using vaccinated travel lanes and other arrangements. At the same time, the country is grappling with a new wave of Covid-19 infections as it looks to forge a path toward reopening its small but trade-reliant economy.
Gan said Singapore needs to step up on efforts to develop vaccinated travel lanes with countries. The government “will see how we can take this one step further, but it will require both sides to discuss how the arrangement will be and what’s the process like,” he later told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin.
Gan said the government is committed to reopening Singapore gradually after reimposing domestic curbs such as making work-from-home the default and cutting the number of diners to deal with a surge in cases. The country remains largely restricted to foreign travel despite its population touting one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
While there is social anxiety over daily cases that stayed above 2,000 for six straight days, Gan said that Singapore would continue to publish the total infection tally as this is a part of a World Health Organization reporting requirement, though that can change once Covid-19 is treated as endemic in the country. The government is focusing more on highlighting serious illnesses and critical cases, he said.
With the reimposed curbs kicking in, the pace of increase in virus cases has slowed, Gan said. Even as Singapore expands its healthcare capacity to cope with mostly mild infections, the country needs to push ahead with its home recovery program, he said.
Gan, who will be traveling to the U.S. later this week to meet with Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, also made the following comments:
“I think Covid-19 has demonstrated that it is important to ensure that our supply chains remain intact so that our economy can continue,” he said, adding that Singapore is well-positioned to play a critical role in the flow of essential supplies like personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and vaccines.
Commenting on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the prospects for the U.S. to join the agreement after China and Taiwan have recently expressed interest, Gan said that “if the U.S. is interested in re-entering CPTPP, we’ll be happy to discuss,” though for any interested parties, acceptance into the group will “require the consensus of all the members of the CPTPP.”
(Adds details on vaccinated travel lanes in paragraph five)
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