Singapore city skyline
Singapore city skyline. Image Credit: Pixabay

Singapore: Singapore has begun the arduous task of reestablishing itself as Asia's international aviation hub, throwing its borders open to five more countries as it presses on with plans to live with Covid.

The city-state will allow quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated people from countries including India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates it said on Monday as it looks to safely move past the pandemic that has kept its 5.5 million residents home for more than a year.

Inoculated visitors from Indonesia and India will be able to enter Singapore from November 29, while those from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar will be welcome from December 6 without having to quarantine, the Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday. Unvaccinated children age 12 and under can accompany eligible adults.

Singapore plans to start the arrangement with Indonesia with two designated flights between Singapore and Jakarta everyday, and will increase that to four, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said. It's aiming for two daily flights each from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai, he said. Both countries were among the top five markets for passenger arrivals at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2019.

The Southeast Asian nation started gradually reopening its borders to general travel in September when it kicked off a vaccinated travel lane with Germany and Brunei. The city-state, home to the world's best airport for eight years until 2020, has ditched its Covid-Zero policy and pivoted to an approach of living with the virus.

Shares in Singapore Airlines Ltd. rose as much as 0.7 per cent in early trade Tuesday. Casino operator Genting Singapore Ltd. climbed as much as 2.4 per cent, while airline caterer SATS Ltd. gained as much as 1 per cent.

Rising Infections

Infection rates are likely to increase as the travel lanes open and the country continues to ease its Covid curbs, a risk officials said they were willing to take given the rising number of vaccinations that have been administered. An average of about 2,700 new infections are being diagnosed each day, a slight decrease from recent weeks as the current outbreak ebbs.

"We should expect higher transmission rates, and infection cases in the coming days and weeks," said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, during a briefing with reporters on Monday. "However, while this is happening, we are also administering more booster shots and more people are also recovering safely from infection and become resilient to the virus."

It's only a matter of time before natural immunity and protection from vaccines will bring infection rates back down again, he said.