Singapore Reveals Surprising Travel Reboot Strategy

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?

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