Netizens worry upcoming travel lane for business travellers could spark new wave of COVID-19 infections

On Tuesday (14 December), Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing announced that Singapore is launching a new segregated travel lane for business travellers coming for short-term stays.

The lane, known as [email protected], cashes in on the opportunity to provide a convenient meeting place for business travellers from around the world from countries that have yet to create their own safe travel bubbles.

Opening to a “limited number” of business, official and high economic value travellers from all countries, applications for the travel lane will be open mid-January 2021 with the first travellers expected in the second half of January, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) in a separate statement.

Elaborating on the plan, Mr Chan said in an online press conference, “The idea is for business people to come into Singapore for up to a period of 14 days. During these 14 days, they will undergo the necessary routine medical checks to provide themselves with the assurance that they are safe and also to provide the assurance to their meeting partners that they are safe.”

For the entire time they’re in Singapore, these travellers will be house within dedicated facilities, undergo regular COVID-19 testing, and stick to all safety management measures, said MTI. This includes having to be confined within their pre-declared travel group of up to five people within the facility. They will not be allowed to mingle with any other travellers.

Travellers can, however, conduct meetings with local visitors and other travellers at these segregated facilities with safe management measures in place in order to properly segregate the travel lane business travellers from others.

“For example, while travellers will be allowed to meet with local visitors, there will be floor-to-ceiling dividers separating travellers from local visitors,” said the ministry.

These travellers will also have to present a valid negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before leaving their home country and take another PCR test upon arrival in Singapore. They will also take antigen rapid tests on days three, five, seven, and 11 while in Singapore.

Opening up Singapore’s borders further has drawn slightly negative reactions from the public, as evidenced by comments on the CNA Facebook page.

Several netizens expressed concern that this “high risk manoeuvre” might trigger a new wave of infections in Singapore.

“It takes just 1 undetected case to start forming clusters,” said one netizen.

One person questioned how the relevant authorities will differentiate between a business traveller and a general traveller.

Another asked about what would happen if a traveller tests positive once they arrive in Singapore and whether they would be treated in medical facilities here.

Others commented on the safety measures in place at the segregated facilities, describing it as a “prison stay” or “like coming for reservist”.

One person singled out the floor-to-ceiling glass panels to separate travellers from visitors, saying that they could save all the trouble and airfare and just meet via Zoom instead.

One netizen posited that the opening of the segregated travel lane might be purposely timed to allow long-term visit pass holders to return for reunions and potentially receive the new Pfizer vaccine, or to even allow applicants of the new Tech.Pass visa to come to Singapore.

Still, at least one person felt that the move would be “ok so long as the check and quarantine are done with due diligence” by both the travellers and Singapore authorities.

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December 2020