Singapore is in talks with several countries to establish a “travel bubble” to create safe travel arrangements to allow essential business travel to resume, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong in a press conference on Thursday (28 May).
Mr Wong said that these discussions are being conducted with specific countries where the COVID-19 pandemic situation is under control.
He explained, “And the idea is to have clear protocols in place that would include testing of travellers from one country to Singapore and vice versa; and with these testing protocols in place, we can ensure that the traveller is free from infection and then essential travel can then resume step by step depending on the countries we have established these green lanes or travel bubbles with.”
Mr Wong noted that the discussions are at various stages depending on the country and that more details will be announced once an agreement is reach with a particular nation.
These “travel bubbles” are being discussed to as to enable essential travel to resume, particularly for businesses based in Singapore that require its employees to travel around the region.
“I think this is going to be an important measure that will allow not only business to resume but jobs to continue,” said Mr Wong, adding that once these measures are in please, Singaporeans can continue to work within and outside of Singapore.
He added that Singapore is also working on easing travel restrictions and resuming travel with specific countries.
However, Mr Wong stressed that these arrangements do not mean that Singapore is allowed “mass market travel”, which will take a longer time to get back to normal both in Singapore and internationally.
In his briefing, the minister noted that this is what Singaporeans can expected over the coming weeks as Singapore enters into Phase 1 of the post-circuit breaker period due to end on 1 June and subsequently Phase 2. Mr Wong added the transition into Phase 2 might possibly happen before the end of June depending on the situation and assessment of community transmissions in the first two weeks of June.
Netizens think the move is risky
The news of Singapore’s possible easing of travel restrictions has not gone down well with netizens in the comments section of Mothership.sg, Channel NewsAsia and Straits Times.
Some netizens were concerned that the government is moving too fast in easing travel restrictions, saying that it should focus on the well-being of Singaporeans first. Chris Li noted that this is a “self-destructive” move.
Others were specifically concerned that reopening borders with Malaysia would prove to be risky, though some did welcome the possibility of easier travelling between the neighbouring country for work purposes.
There were also those who asked about who would bear the cost of testing as well as treatment should some of these essential business travellers get infected in a different country. One person suggested that companies should be made to foot the bill.
Wayne Leong called out the move as being “biased and selective towards businesses” rather than the well-being of citizens, suggesting that borders should only be reopened after Phase 2 of the post-circuit breaker period.
Meanwhile, another netizen described the term “tavel bubble” used by Mr Wong as “cringy” and “inconspicuous”.