U.S. Pushing Singapore to Let American Visitors Enter Freely
(Bloomberg) -- American officials are pushing the Singapore government to open a travel lane so visitors from the U.S. can enter the city-state with the same sort of freedoms travelers from Singapore get in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.
Singapore Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong said Monday that travel corridors could be formed with several countries and regions including the U.S. and Europe this year, but for now arrivals from most places face mandatory quarantine.
U.S. officials are emphasizing the trade and investment relationship as a reason why a travel lane should be prioritized, and arguing that the current curbs are inhibiting business and causing emotional distress for American expatriates, the people said, asking not to be named as they aren’t authorized to speak publicly. The U.S. is Singapore’s biggest foreign investor.
Singapore announced over the weekend that quarantine for visitors from the U.S., among other places including the U.K., would be shortened to 10 days this week from 14 days previously. That’s more stringent than the requirements placed on travelers going the other way, who just need a negative Covid test to enter the U.S. and don’t have to isolate. The imbalance is a source of frustration for the U.S. side, the people said.
We “will see how we can take this one step further,” Gan said on Bloomberg Television on Monday, referring to the progress on vaccinated travel lanes. Gan is a co-chair on Singapore’s virus taskforce and is due to visit the U.S. this week.
Tension over the one-sided travel curbs reflects a broader global split on how to move on from Covid-19 and resume international economic activity. While the U.S. has taken a largely laissez-faire approach to containment, relying on vaccination to blunt the virus’s edge, Singapore has been a prominent member of a group of places that stamped out local transmission through strict rules. The Asian nation is now pivoting slowly to reopening, but a surge in cases has caused widespread public anxiety despite a high vaccination rate.
Singapore allows arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to enter without quarantine, and last month opened corridors with Germany and Brunei for vaccinated travelers.
“Singapore has adopted a cautious, calibrated, step-by-step approach in reopening of our borders,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport said in an email. “We are in discussions with other countries and regions, including the U.S., on the resumption of cross border travel -- such as through the vaccinated travel lanes -- subject to operational and public health considerations.”
The U.S. has been lobbying for an agreement on a quarantine-free travel lane since before Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit in August, but Singapore declined at the time, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
“We maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with the government of Singapore on a variety of issues, including the current travel restrictions,” a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Singapore said Monday. “These exchanges are respectful and cooperative. We respect the government of Singapore’s efforts to reopen the economy in a responsible fashion.”
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