SINGAPORE – Singapore is lifting some restrictions at its borders, but recovery in its important aviation sector remains challenging, given the uncertain trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s transport minister said.
“The fact remains that it will be a long way to go because while some countries are more advanced in vaccination, others are still trying to vaccinate their population,” S Iswaran told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.
“And at the same time the virus is in different stages in different parts of the world, and that is why countries have also adopted different types of border measures,” the minister said.
The aviation sector contributes about 3% of Singapore’s gross national product.
Singapore is a city-state with no national air travel market. As a result, its aviation industry and the flagship carrier Singapore Airlines have both been hit by the travel restrictions that countries have imposed to limit the spread of Covid.
On Thursday the Singapore government announced several steps to reopen its borders, allowing certain groups of travelers to bypass quarantine on arrival in the city-state. Those groups include vaccinated travelers from Germany and Brunei, as well as vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers from Hong Kong and Macao – as long as they meet certain conditions.
Iswaran said the “vaccinated travel arrangements” agreement with Germany and Brunei could help Singapore’s aviation sector recover.
“But I think we have to be quite realistic that this is a challenging road, and it has to be one where we accept that there is a dynamic profile that responds to situations as they evolve,” he added.
Singapore and Hong Kong had planned to launch a highly anticipated air travel bubble, which would allow pleasure travel without quarantine. The plan has been postponed twice due to the growth of Covid homes, and the two cities announced Thursday the travel bubble was discarded.
Singapore has one of the highest Covid vaccination rates in the world. About 77% of its estimated 5.69 million people completed their inoculation by Wednesday. said the health ministry.
The country of Southeast Asia relaxed measures of social distancing in addition this week. The facility includes increasing the cap on the number of participants for business conferences and live performances, as well as allowing more people to return to their jobs.
Iswaran said that, despite Singapore’s high vaccination rate, measures such as masking are still needed to minimize the risk of Covid transmission.
“The reason is because vaccination – while providing protection – we need the complement of other safe management measures, especially when considering some of the new variants such as delta, which still has a fairly high transmissibility.” , the minister said.