Given that Singapore is an open economy and is dependent on trade and tourism, the country’s border may be reopened before December this year, said Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) chairman Dr Paul Tambyah in an interview with CNBC on 18 June (Thursday).
Dr Tambyah, who is a National University of Singapore (NUS) professor and infectious disease expert, opined that unlike other countries such as Australia, Singapore’s border will most likely be opened to other countries before the end of this year.
“Singapore, which you correctly point out, is a much more open economy and dependent on trade and tourism than Australia. So, I don’t see us staying shut until December,” Dr Tambyah explained.
He added, “You’ve already seen there have been initial boost to open up Green Lane travels to certain countries. There have been certain provisions made to the Stay-at-Home (SHN) notices for travellers from selected countries. So I think this is a moving target.”
As such, the professor opined that the exact date of reopening of the border will depend on how well the virus is controlled, both inside and outside of Singapore.
Australia’s Tourism Minister recently announced that the country’s border will be closed until next year in order to reduce the risk of another wave of the COVID-19.
Separately, Dr Tambyah also said that the primary focus now is to work together, regardless of the political affiliations, so that the virus can be brought under control.
Since the outbreak is slowing beginning to ease out in Singapore, the country has to remain focus and push to achieve zero local transmission of the virus.
“The epidemic is burning out slowly in dormitories, and as you mentioned the communities outside of the dormitories, the numbers are going down…What we need to do it remain focus on going the last couple of miles and getting to a stage where there is no local transmission of the virus in Singapore anywhere,” the professor said.
Government didn’t manage to contain the spread of virus in March
When asked if anything has changed in the migrant worker dormitories following high number of COVID-19 cases reported in the country, Dr Tambyah stated that there have been “changes in the legislations and rules about the number of people that can be put in a room and the number of people that have to share a toilet”.
However, the professor asserted that the main priority right now is to get the outbreak under control.
Dr Tambyah also said that the government took a swift approach to control the virus outbreak in February, and this even gained international recognition.
He explained that when the migrant workers who stayed in dormitories were infected with the virus early this year, the government quickly quarantined their close contacts and Singapore did not see any secondary spread.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in March,” Dr Tambyah said.
As of Monday (21 June), Singapore recorded an additional 218 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 42,313. Most of the cases in the country is among migrant workers living in crammed and unhygienic dormitories.