Singapore Taking First Small Steps to Reopen Its Borders

Image Credit: First Stop Singapore
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At around nearly 58,000 Covid-19 cases, Singapore has almost more than five times as many cases as Malaysia, but it is nevertheless keen to see foreigners return, recognizing the benefit to the economy. The city-state is also keen to see the Changi Airport hub start business again, as it has been badly hit by the collapse in air travel, particularly since Singapore relies wholly on international flights for its air traffic. In good times, the aviation sector generates about 5% of the country’s GDP and employs nearly 200,000 people, so it is an important part of the country’s economy.

Despite the relatively high number of cases in Singapore – most of which have been among the many foreign migrant workers there (who tend to be younger and fitter) – the number of deaths remains low at only 27 people, where it has stayed for months.

Singapore has now agreed to let citizens of four countries visit. In order to do so, they have to apply for an Air Travel Pass, which essentially means they can visit for any purpose, not just business reasons. They have to take a Covid-19 test on arrival, but there is no quarantine requirement, they just have to download Singapore’s tracking app, called Trace Together.

Last month, Singapore allowed citizens of New Zealand and Brunei to visit and has so far received 333 applications, of which 136 have arrived. These are small numbers, but it represents a beginning. Effective October 8th, they will permit citizens of Vietnam and Australia (but not Victoria) to visit. It is not entirely clear how they will prevent people living in Victoria from visiting, although possibly it just refers to flights from Melbourne.

Singapore Changi Airport and Jewel | Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Interestingly, neither Vietnam and Australia currently allow visitors from Singapore into their countries, so Singapore is taking the initiative and hoping they will reciprocate in the future.

It is interesting that Singapore has not opened its door to Malaysians, other than the very restricted categories allowed to travel between the two countries. It is not clear why that is the case, but it does seem that both Singapore and Malaysia want all their inter-country travel openings to be reciprocal. There have been calls to open the border, especially from Johor officials, as the state has many Malaysians who worked in Singapore and are now unemployed. Apparently, unemployment in Johor state is now around 18%, which is a record high.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is still struggling to let long-term foreign residents back into the country, so it seems a long way from opening its borders to tourist traffic, even from low-risk countries. The recent uptick in Covid-19 cases in Malaysia will certainly not do much to hasten border openings.

The Singapore-Malaysia Causeway | Image Credit: SCMP

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