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Unilateral opening of borders signals to world that Singapore is open for business, says Ong Ye Kung

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The move to allow visitors from Brunei and New Zealand to visit Singapore more freely is a step towards reviving Singapore’s aviation sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said at a virtual media doorstop on Friday (21 August).

It is also an invitation to the world that Singapore is open for business.

A small cautious step to revive the aviation sector

“All in all I think this is a small, cautious step to start to reopen aviation and resuscitate Changi Airport, as well as (Singapore Airlines),” Mr Ong said.

Singapore is a small, open, globalised economy.

The aviation sector, Changi Airport and SIA (Singapore Airlines) do not concern just the aviation sector. It is linked to the whole economy.

“We need to start to take steps to open up in a safe manner that can revive Changi Airport, resuscitate the aviation sector,” Mr Ong said.

The number of travellers from both countries would be manageable.  There are two weekly flights from Brunei that can transport a maximum of 500 passengers, and four weekly flights from New Zealand, which can take a maximum of 1,200 passengers.

New Zealand and Brunei are chosen because both countries had an infection rate of well below 0.1 cases per 100,000 members of the population. This reduces the likelihood of a case entering Singapore from either country.

Mr Ong said he believed we can “strike a good balance between keeping Singapore safe and travellers here safe, as well as reviving the air traffic sector.

“Remember, as a small, open economy, to survive we’ve got to keep our borders open. To earn a living, we’ve got to have connections with the world. And to thrive and prosper, we must be an aviation hub,” said Mr Ong.

Openness is Singapore’s posture since its beginning

On why Singapore has taken the initiative to unilaterally ease restrictions on travellers coming in from Brunei and New Zealand before reciprocal arrangements are made, Mr Ong said openness has been a hallmark of Singapore’s history.

200 years ago we unilaterally became a free port, Mr Ong said.

“In the early 80s, when we first built Changi Airport’s Terminal 1, we also unilaterally opened up our skies.

“And when we were promoting free trade… we also unilaterally removed most of our tariffs… So it really is an invitation to the world (that) we’re open for business… and that has always been our posture.”

Aviation industry players welcome announcement

SATS president and CEO Alex Hungate hoped that in this way, it will help restore confidence in air travel while ensuring that (the) Changi experience remains the best in the world.

Conrad Clifford, the International Transport Association’s regional vice-president for Asia-Pacific said “The recent remarks by Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung (are) reassuring and a breath of fresh air as the government clearly recognises aviation’s strategic contribution to the Singapore economy. Having a viable aviation industry will be critical to economic recovery by ensuring effective connectivity with the rest of the world for the movement of people and goods.”

Stay-Home notice waived for travellers from New Zealand and Brunei

The Ministry of Health had on Friday August 21 announced that from September 1, stay-home notice will be waived for travellers from New Zealand and Brunei. Instead, travellers will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival.

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