AVIATION | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Free travel is a long way off: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says it will be a while before the travel bubble with Hong Kong will come into effect.

Singapore won’t open its borders to uninhibited international travel any time soon.

“To open up completely again and have free travel, it is a long way off,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the inaugural Global Forum on Economic Recovery hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

This is despite continued talks with Hong Kong for a travel bubble, a move that was again suspended this month.

“Even travel bubbles – countries talk about it, but that needs confidence on both sides and we only want to bubble with countries which are safer than us. That means it is not easy to make a match,” Lee said.

Lee said countries are not ready to create an international consortium to encourage more travel. Instead, more countries are tightening restrictions because of recent outbreaks and more transmissible variants of COVID-19.

“But in our case, what we are trying to do is to establish travel bubbles with other countries where we have mutual understanding of each other’s situations, and mutual confidence that we will be open with one another and will keep things under control, or if not, we will fly a red flag straightaway,” he added.

He admitted that it will “take a while” before Singapore can join join more travel bubble plans.

The aviation industry is among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with flag carrier operator Singapore Airlines Group posting a net loss of $4.3b for 2020. Tourism dependent industries such as hotels and restaurants are also struggling to recover from pandemic-driven losses.


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