Singapore green lane arrangements with Germany, Malaysia, and South Korea will be suspended for three months starting today, in view of a resurgence of Covid-19 cases worldwide.
The Republic will review these suspended green lane arrangements at the end of the period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday (Jan 30). Green lanes allow essential travel for business or official purposes between two countries.
Travelers who have already been approved to enter Singapore under these arrangements can continue with their plans, MFA added.
Singapore had agreed on green lanes with Germany, Malaysia, and South Korea in October, August, and September respectively last year. Its other arrangement with Malaysia, the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, will not be affected.
Green lane arrangements still exist with some countries like China.
The suspension shows the dynamic nature of the situation, which is constantly being evaluated, Mr. Wong Soon-Hwa, chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, told The Sunday Times.
Mr. Wong said: “Should the situation change, we must be prepared for suspension or cancellation of plans. It will be very frustrating and disruptive but is necessary.”
Impacts of the suspended agreements
The lasting impact of such suspended agreements on travel can only be known later, experts said, as much remains unknown – such as whether vaccinations could prove to be a game-changer in reducing the risk of transmission and infection.
Singapore University of Social Sciences associate professor of economics Walter Theseira added that the suspension of the green lanes would not put Singapore at too much of a disadvantage.
While travel arrangements for business are valuable, the regions where the green lanes are suspended are generally those where nobody is traveling, internationally or domestically, because of the heightened Covid-19 risk.
So in that sense, with everyone on a similar playing field, Singapore will not be at a disadvantage, Prof Theseira said. Singaporeans keen to travel might also find it wiser to shelve the idea for now.
Prof Theseira said: “Covid-19 vaccines might protect traveling Singaporeans, but it wouldn’t protect them against border closures, flight cancellations, and not being able to get routine medical treatment in case of a healthcare crisis in the region they are at.
“It is also unlikely that the authorities would exempt them from border controls simply based on vaccination, given the lack of accepted vaccination standards internationally.”
This is not the first time Singapore has put the brakes on existing travel arrangements. In November last year, plans for an air travel bubble arrangement with Hong Kong, which would facilitate leisure travel, went up in smoke and had to be delayed in the light of a spike of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.
Source: Straits Times