Singapore Reveals Surprising Travel Reboot Strategy

Singapore Reveals Surprising Travel Reboot Strategy

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It sounds like Singapore plans to reopen its borders sooner rather than later, which comes as a surprise to me.

Why I didn’t think Singapore would reopen anytime soon

Singapore has by all accounts done a great job minimizing coronavirus cases and deaths. The country has taken pretty close to a zero-tolerance approach to coronavirus — Singapore’s borders have mostly remained closed, the country has seen a total of only 36 pandemic deaths, and daily case averages have been in the single or low double digits for many months.

The big question has been when Singapore will reopen its borders, and everything has been pointing towards that not happening anytime soon. For example, Singapore has developed a “business travel bubble,” whereby people can have face-to-face meetings.

Singapore’s “business travel bubble” concept

The catch is that visitors have to stay in a special facility, and their only interaction with locals can be through an air-tight glass panel, with each side even having a separate ventilation system. It was suggested that this was “the new normal” of business travel in Singapore, and that this facility will continue to be expanded over time.

Something like this is only needed if borders continue to remain closed, so Singapore’s continued commitment to investing in this concept suggested to me the country wouldn’t reopen anytime soon.

Singapore’s “business travel bubble” concept

Singapore’s plan to live with coronavirus

Singapore’s Minister for Finance, Minister for Trade and Industry, and Minister for Health, published a refreshing op-ed in The Straits Times, about how Singapore is drawing a roadmap for a new normal. The premise of the article is that in the near future Singapore’s response to coronavirus will be very different than it is now, and “the good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst.”

Singapore hopes to have two-thirds of its population fully vaccinated by early August, at which point the country plans to live with the pandemic in the same way it lives with the flu.

With widespread vaccination, the government of Singapore believes things will change as follows:

  • Vaccinated people who get infected will be able to recover at home, since their symptoms are more likely to be mild, and the healthcare system won’t be overwhelmed
  • There won’t be a need to conduct massive contract tracing and quarantining of people each time an infection is discovered, since people can just get themselves tested regularly
  • Singapore will stop reporting daily coronavirus infection rates, rather focusing on the outcomes, including how many people fall very sick and are hospitalized
  • With this progress, large gatherings will be able to resume, and businesses will have certainty that operations will not be disrupted

And what about travel? Singapore plans to reopen its borders sooner rather than later:

We will be able to travel again, at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm. We will recognise each other’s vaccination certificates. Travellers, especially those vaccinated, can get themselves tested before departure and be exempted from quarantine with a negative test upon arrival.

While I’m sure we’ll learn more details soon enough, the general plan seems to be to:

  • To allow visitors who are vaccinated
  • To require a pre-travel test in order to enter the country
  • To require a post-travel test in order to skip quarantine
Tourism in Singapore might be possible again soon

On balance I’d consider this to be extremely positive news. Singapore seems serious about wanting to reopen, much more so than Australia or New Zealand, for example. So while some might consider two tests in addition to vaccination excessive, at least the country wants to open to potential visitors without quarantining, which is great.

Singapore’s approach seems like a fair middle ground — the country really wants to err on the side of caution, but doesn’t want to stay closed completely. To me that seems like a smart plan, as Singapore is a regional business hub, and with closed borders it could lose its standing.

Life in Singapore could return to normal soon

Bottom line

Singapore’s government has made it clear that with vaccination, life will more or less return to normal, and that we’ll live with coronavirus just as we live with the flu. It sounds like we should expect Singapore’s borders to open in the not-too-distant future, once at least two-thirds of the population is vaccinated.

At a minimum we should expect vaccinated people to be able to travel to Singapore, with the possibility of having to take two tests in order to skip quarantine. While no exact date has been given for entry requirements changing, it wouldn’t surprise me if Singapore still opens in late summer or early fall.

What do you make of Singapore’s reopening plan?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Conversations (35)
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  1. Aboutface

    Opening without up to date intel on source country origin risks is a recipe for disaster. Its a given, that tests certification from indian subcontinent are unreliable, can be bought by those with the money. Any country, that has allowed these entries are at great risk. A case in point is the UK.
    Then we have Australia, the FEDEX cargo flight to Sydney. The crew from US likely got the virus from home base....

    Opening without up to date intel on source country origin risks is a recipe for disaster. Its a given, that tests certification from indian subcontinent are unreliable, can be bought by those with the money. Any country, that has allowed these entries are at great risk. A case in point is the UK.
    Then we have Australia, the FEDEX cargo flight to Sydney. The crew from US likely got the virus from home base. Someone, must have had the indian variant invaded into the FEDEX facility(ies). Its a whole series of chain event.
    Any opening up, must deal with source country risk. Quarantine, of imports is not the solution.

  2. Paul Andrew McCarthy

    The emphasis on being fully vaccinated is nonsensical given the vaccines don’t prevent infection or the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Just open the country and learn to live with the virus adopting a Focused Protection COVID-19 policy.

  3. DC not in DC

    Singapore is hurting itself by continuing this overreaction to Covid.

    Hundreds of people die every year from H3N2 flu in Singapore and dengue is endemic to Singapore but neither of these facts has led to a shutdown of travel. I had both H3N2 and dengue in Singapore and was hospitalized, recovered and returned.

    I am usually in Singapore every couple of months but will not return until either only proof of vaccination or nothing at all is required for entry.

  4. Dick Bupkiss

    A reasonable approach. There's just one missing element: mandating vaccines.

    I'm ready for a full requirement of 100% vaccination to basically access anything. Worldwide.

    It's only the anti-vaxx morons who are holding back the world. Time to leave them behind, and stop making excuses and loopholes for them. Singapore isn't exactly shy about enforcing rules, this should be easy for them.

    1. snic

      Actually vaccine supply is the major factor "holding up the world", followed by the challenges of actually getting the vaccine into people's arms. Even in rural America, that remains a major issue. There are people who want the vaccine but don't have time or resources to go literally miles out of their way to get it. There are people who want the vaccine but don't have a sense of urgency about getting it. There are...

      Actually vaccine supply is the major factor "holding up the world", followed by the challenges of actually getting the vaccine into people's arms. Even in rural America, that remains a major issue. There are people who want the vaccine but don't have time or resources to go literally miles out of their way to get it. There are people who want the vaccine but don't have a sense of urgency about getting it. There are people who say they don't want the vaccine but will change their minds when their doctor, pastor, etc suggests it's a good idea to get it. We have a long way to go to get the vaccine into all those people.

      Yes, there are anti-vaxxers and others who aren't necessarily anti-vaccine in general but resent being told to get *this* vaccine, and that's why we'll never reach 100% - but in time we should reach 75 or 80%, which is enough given how effective the vaccines are.

  5. Claus

    The travel bubble concept is pretty ridiculous, who would fly to Singapore to interact through a window. Might just as well do a video conference.

  6. NYGuy24

    I'm all for allowing only fully vaccinated travelers. Requiring the covid tests for asymptomatic travelers on top of that is a bit much though. If it is the test mentioned where you blow into the device then its not a big deal but I don't think I'm undergoing multiple tests just to visit Singapore. Hopefully they won't require testing for passengers who are just transiting through Singapore vs visiting the city itself.

  7. Ken

    I'm not sure why everyone here seems to think that countries should create rules just for them. I don't think y'all realize that the Singapore government probably doesn't care about some people on the internet who refuse to engage in any sort of COVID precaution. News flash y'all, they don't give a shit if you don't want to go to their country.

    1. JW

      Well said, what's perceived in the Internet are just perceptions.

    2. Florian

      Well at least the feeling is mutual. If being vaccinated isn't enough "precaution" then they can stick those tests up their own noses.

  8. freedom

    "at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm"

    This is more important than the other conditions. Only a handful of Asian countries are probably part of, like Japan/South Korea/Hong Kong and Taiwan.

  9. DJ

    Be even better if they use the 'breathalizer'-like test that costs about $2 and gives results in 15 minutes. My understanding is Singapore was instrumental in developing it, and it's being put into use in places like Indonesia for domestic travel, though I heard yesterday that Bali is going to require PCR tests for domestic travel again.

  10. Nikhil

    Sad that Australia won't open up soon. We have family there we would like to visit.

  11. Biz Traveler

    Covid Zero is stupid and unattainable.

    1. Ken

      Sounds like Singapore agrees with you???? Open once citizens are vaccinated seems reasonable to me... Not sure why everyone is throwing a fit.

  12. Jan

    I bet they are watching the West open up slowly but surely to each other, and wants to have a slice of that pie but at the same time follow science. With that said, even though Singapore is my #1 place in the world to revisit, I would wait to see how they behave. Easy to forget that they are still an authoritarian state that can change the rules as they fit and would have no qualms ruining your travel plans.

    1. Biz Traveler

      tRuSt ThE ScIeNcE durrrrrr

  13. philelltt

    There are a lot of coulds, shoulds and woulds in the statements from the Singaporean ministers. These sentences seem a fairly clear though...

    The Singaporean ministers said the country was by no means at a stage where the post-covid plan could commence. For the time being, current restrictions would have to remain in place.

    1. Sam G

      Agree, I am surprised bloggers are jumping all over this. Maybe I'm wrong but SG govt works in very calm and considered ways and whilst this is a good roadmap and glimpse into where we'll eventually get to, it'll be many many months before it's at a stage where foreign tourists can travel in with only testing each end from most of the world. Certainly not summer, SQ has already published their reduced schedule through...

      Agree, I am surprised bloggers are jumping all over this. Maybe I'm wrong but SG govt works in very calm and considered ways and whilst this is a good roadmap and glimpse into where we'll eventually get to, it'll be many many months before it's at a stage where foreign tourists can travel in with only testing each end from most of the world. Certainly not summer, SQ has already published their reduced schedule through to Oct and they'd have good intel from the govt for sure

  14. EC2

    I’d go to Holland (no vaccinations or testing required) before Singapore. The countries that place hurdles will suffer. In short term I can understand, but this will not be a long term. It gets them open to those that have to travel there for business or are just desperate to travel.

  15. Joe

    Having fled Singapore over all of this (and downsized investment in our business there by roughly 40%).... I really hope this works. I've always said Singapore could have been the model for the world on how to balance risks on Covid but instead turned into a zero covid basket case country.

    However. The devil is in the detail. I have a feeling "to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into...

    Having fled Singapore over all of this (and downsized investment in our business there by roughly 40%).... I really hope this works. I've always said Singapore could have been the model for the world on how to balance risks on Covid but instead turned into a zero covid basket case country.

    However. The devil is in the detail. I have a feeling "to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm" is the detail which may be problematic. ie is sub 10 cases a day what SG sees as a country "controlling the virus"? That's the standard they've applied to themselves up to now.

  16. David

    Actually glad to see so many people deterred from traveling because of testing requirements. Makes it safer for me, the destinations a lot less crowded and hotel rates much lower. Thanks (and I hope they keep these requirements in place)!

  17. Abidjan

    Well, it's a start. But the testing regimen is still too restrictive.

  18. Cedric

    yeah, no go for 90% of travel if you have to get tested in and out.

    1. Steve

      Same, too bad the testing companies have scared all the politicians making the decisions and the pandemic has provided too great of an opportunity for leaders to line their pockets with proceeds from the companies benefiting from testing/lockdowns.

  19. David

    Reasonable middle ground. I wish companies will get on with finding a less intrusive way to get test samples though (less intrusive than sticking something deep into your nose, at least).

  20. Noa

    There is no way people will plan trips in any huge numbers as long as testing remains part of the requirements, SPECIALLY on-arrival testing.

    I'd you fail the on arrival test there is huge disruption and uncertainty in your plans, likely stuck in some govt center for 2 weeks. Absolutely no one would want to risk that for a casual trip

    1. That Guy

      I agree.

      The more hurdles you put in front of discretionary travelers, the more will go elsewhere.

      Once things start to change though, they can change quickly. Look at Europe’s race to reopen now.

    2. Ryan

      Umm… people are already doing it with Italy. Myself included! Test prior to departure and then on arrival. There are many that will do it in my opinion. I’d go just to see Singapore airport lol and stay there for a few days. I’m sure many want to see their families as well. It’s been a while!

    3. Ken

      I don't think the Singapore government cares lol. You can stay not travelling.

    4. NYGuy24

      Agreed. The on arrival testing is really pushing it. I'm ok with requiring people to be fully vaccinated. I will tolerate a pre-flight covid test for destinations I really want to visit, but an on arrival test on top of that is probably going to be a deal breaker the more I think about it. Not going to fly around the world and gamble on whether or not some random test they give me shows positive.

  21. Sir Walter Raleigh

    @Ben - why do my comments after the redesign keep getting deleted? As far as I can tell, they don’t seem to violate policy in spirit or letter.

    1. Iqbal singh

      Am waiting when we open again singpore .

Featured Comments Load all 35 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Steve

Same, too bad the testing companies have scared all the politicians making the decisions and the pandemic has provided too great of an opportunity for leaders to line their pockets with proceeds from the companies benefiting from testing/lockdowns.

W Ho

Pffft we are way behind the US.

TG

Spot On!

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