SINGAPORE – Covid-19 tests, vaccinations and “blisters” between people and countries are some ways to ensure safe travel without quarantine, said Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (May 6).
This would serve more than just tourism and vacation for a country like Singapore, he added, pointing out the imperative to keep the republic in contact with the world.
“The economic investments of the people here; the people who bring solutions here; and we distribute these solutions and products to the rest of the world – that’s our means of survival,” said Ong.
He spoke at the 50th St. Gallen Symposium, which was broadcast live from the UBS University campus in Singapore, during a plenary session which was also attended by the Swiss Federal Councilor Karin Keller-Sutter, Canada’s Ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, and the German Ambassador to the United Nations, Christoph, Heusgen participated.
Mr. Ong reported on the “glaring” feedback that was given during the dialogue of an international chamber in which he had participated. International investors in Singapore said they were unhappy that they were unable to join their families during the Christmas and Easter holidays, due to factors among other things the 14 to 21 day quarantine requirements of the republic on their return.
Investors had said, “And I meet people through Zoom … I’m starting to wonder why I need to be here.”
He had four proposals to overcome this “serious problem” – and reduce travel risks while replacing quarantine measures.
First, tests to detect Covid-19 in people before they infect others.
Second, “bubble wrap” to prevent travelers from moving freely – for their safety.
Mr Ong said the Connect @ Changi building, which opened in February to hold face-to-face meetings between short-term business travelers from all over the world, could enable them without prior quarantine.
“You can come to Singapore. You can hold your meetings, you can sign documents, you can meet people through a plexiglass. Different airflow. And when you are done business you can come back,” Ong said.
For his third point – vaccinations – he said, “We all know the effects. It was successful; some of the vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of infection and also reduce the severity … and it also decreases your chance of spreading it to other people. “
His final suggestion, which he identified as the most important and difficult, was: Open to air travel to other Covid-19 safe countries.
“If we don’t protect ourselves, there is no chance that we will open up. However, if you feel that countries or regions are able to protect themselves, we can open up to each other as we are now at the same risk are exposed.” . “
Mr. Ong pointed this out A quarantine-free travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong set to begin May 26th after being postponed after an outbreak in Hong Kong last year.
“If we can create this air link between us, I think it will be a huge step forward and a very viable model for the rest of the world,” he said.
Singapore authorities are now monitoring the situation amid an increase in local cases and a new series of toughened restrictions that will apply from May 8th to May 30th.
Previously, Mr Ong was asked what he would have liked differently at the beginning of the pandemic.
He said the republic’s response had improved with prior knowledge of scientific parameters such as the reproduction number and routes of transmission of the R0 (R-naught) virus, as well as the concept of mortality rates.
R0 is the average number of new infections caused by each case, while the death rate indicates the likelihood that a Covid-19 patient will die in the country.
“If we understood the transmission, we would likely know what precautions to take, including the mandatory wearing of masks,” Ong added. “That’s what I think is necessary – always respect science and deal with the problem from a science perspective.”
He later emphasized that a key challenge for all countries was the balance between connecting with the rest of the world and protecting oneself.
“The linchpin of that balance is different for each country. If you are a large country the size of a continent, you can all but close your borders because you have resources, enough labor, enough industry, and yourself can feed, “he said.
“Singapore’s fulcrum is completely on the other side. From day one in our 700-year history as an island we have always been dependent on trade. (Being) in the middle of Southeast Asia with sea lanes that come through us, along the road of Malacca – we have always relied on being connected to the world in order to survive, be good, and thrive as a unit.
“When this crisis erupted, it affected Singapore’s survival, future prosperity and our entire purpose for existence.”