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SINGAPORE -Secure access to air travel by 2021, if governments carefully open up to areas with a limited number of Covid 19 domestic cases, Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung stated.

In his speech of Monday (May 3), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Business Advisory Board said that action should be tightened for places with high rates of infection at a virtual reopening dialogue.

Making the point that “vaccines are working”, he said: “We are not likely to see a strong V-shaped recovery in aviation this year. But the start of a recovery is possible, and worth working towards.”

Ong Ye Kung Hard Time
Image Source: The Straits Times

Mr Ong acknowledged the time has come to discuss the reopening of borders with countries facing the threat of new variants of the Covid-19 virus and addressed political leaders, leaders and industry representatives.

However, in the immediate and medium term, such discussions are imperative, even if they “will be characterized by incertidities, dangers and setbacks.”
“The opening our borders is ultimately about connecting our countries, our cities, our businesses and our people – ensuring that global cooperation and exchange continues,” he said. “It is what humanity desires and instinctively seeks.”

He quoted Singapore and Hong Kong as examples, which are both hubs for aviation and centers for international finance. Both its airports and airlines need to continue smoking so that these roles can continue, Mr Ong said. Hong Kong and Singapore announced a quarantine-free travel bubble will be launched on 26 May.

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He said Singapore is dealing with a cluster of infections that have emerged out of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, noting that the air bubble between Australia and New Zealand is “some stops and starts.”

“But fortunately, and as of now, unlinked cases in the community have remained low. Perhaps that is why we call them bubbles, because they are by nature a bit fragile, given the circumstances we are in,” he added.
Five key measures required for safe reopening borders have also been outlined by Mr Ong. In addition to only opening up countries with successful virus monitoring, Covid-19, bubble-wrappers and vaccinations are being tested in the other measures. Mr. Ong said that Singapore is engaged in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organization in relation to vaccinations and various venues concerning the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates.

“A no-regret step to do now is for countries and regions to start work on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates,” he said.

“What to do after recognition is a policy question that can be decided on later, when more evidence and data become available.”

Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s Commerce Secretary for Economic Development, spoke following Mr. Ong’s speech that governments should “respect science” in the process of reopening borders. He added that: “We have to plan the best and prepare the worst. Some of the hiccups should not discourage us, but rather learn from all the experienced things while we are progressing.”

Ong Ye Kung Hard Time
Image Source: The Straits Times

Later in a panel, Singapore CEO Lam Yi Young called on countries to work together to implement consistent travel requirements across various borders.

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“This can help to avoid a spaghetti bowl of rules that makes it difficult for businesses to plan for travel,” said Mr Lam.

“This is an area that we believe that Apec can play a big role, maybe in terms of adopting common standards and mutual recognition for Covid-19 testing, vaccinations, digital health passports, and also some form of consistent quarantine protocols across economies.”

Source: The Straits Times

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