Coronavirus: Singapore to open segregated business travel bubble starting January

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Singapore will open a new segregated travel lane for a limited number of business, official and high economic value travelers from all countries, the government said on Tuesday, as part of efforts to revive its key travel and hospitality sectors.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Singapore has spent billions of dollars in a bid to shield its economy from its worst-ever downturn and is trying to reopen international travel as it prepares to host the World Economic Forum's annual gathering of political and business leaders next year.

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) will make its debut in Asia in May after being moved from its usual home in the Swiss
ski resort of Davos over coronavirus safety concerns.

The first travelers will be able to arrive from the second half of January through the new lane, which will be open to those who are coming for short-term stays of up to 14 days, the ministry of trade and industry said in a statement.

It will complement other arrangements that Singapore has for business travel including with China, Germany and Indonesia.

Travelers under the latest arrangement will have to stick to strict health and testing protocols and will need to stay within a “bubble” at segregated facilities.

For example, while travelers will be allowed to meet with local visitors, there will be floor-to-ceiling dividers separating them.

The first travelers under the arrangement will be allowed from the second half of January for stays of up to 14 days, the ministry of trade and industry said in a statement.

The ministry did not specifically mention the WEF event.

This is the first scheme that will be open to visitors from all countries.

Visitors will be regularly tested, have to stay in “bubbles” of five people at segregated facilities, carry contact-tracing devices and only meet other guests and Singapore-based people in rooms with floor-to-ceiling dividers.

“This segregation concept can be applied when we have the WEF,” said Wong King Yin, a tourism specialist at Nanyang Technological University.

The January launch would allow authorities time to test the system before the WEF event, she said.

The trade ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the arrangement was made with the WEF in mind.

Singapore has reported only a handful of local cases of coronavirus infection over the past two months, and has won praise, including from the World Health Organization, for its handling of the outbreak.

The city-state of 5.7 million said on Monday it would receive the first shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year and expects to have secured enough vaccines for everyone by the third quarter of 2021.

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