Singapore is expected to open “vaccinated itineraries” with more countries – but that doesn’t mean the country is taking significantly higher risks, Transport Minister S. Iswaran told CNBC on Monday.

The city-state announced this last week more lanes are being introduced for vaccinated travelers South Korea, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA That is in addition to similar agreements with Germany and Brunei that started in september.

The initiative allows quarantine-free travel for vaccinated people, but travelers must take Covid-19 tests to ensure they don’t contract the virus before entering.

Singapore will next consider similar travel arrangements with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and “many other countries” in the region, he added.

Reopening of international travel

Iswaran, who is also Singapore’s minister for trade relations, said the country’s existing initiative with Germany and Brunei only picked up two cases of infected travelers – out of 3,000 people who entered Singapore via what are known as VTLs in the first month.

“So when you combine that with compulsory vaccination, the vaccinated travel routes and cross-border flows that we allow don’t significantly increase the risk we take as a country,” he told CNBC. Squawk Box Asia. “

We are finding ways to safely enter international air travel and regain and rebuild Singapore’s status as an international air hub.

S. Iswaran

Singapore Minister of Transport

Iswaran responded to some criticism on the Internet that the city-state’s plans to reopen international travel appeared to contradict his decision impose some new restrictions within the national borders.

Singapore said on Saturday it would tighten some Covid restrictions aimed at protecting those in need of protection like the elderly and the unvaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated are no longer allowed to enter shopping centers, and those who have been vaccinated are also restricted to two people entering shopping centers.

The minister noted that the VTLs showed that only a limited number of infected cases entered the country, but that infections in the community had increased much faster – with a “significant proportion” spread through community activity.

On a “risk assessment basis” some of these activities need to be restricted while economic and general activity can continue “as much as possible” while at the same time imposing some “important restrictions”, Iswaran said.

By October 9, 83% of the population had completed two doses of a Covid vaccine.

However, the number of cases began to surge after some restrictions were relaxed, hitting a record high last week to hover above 3,000.

Last month the Singapore authorities did Tightened Covid measures again to mitigate community broadcasts and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. The country has also started encouraging those infected with Covid with mild symptoms to self-isolate if possible.

Singapore wants to regain the status of a global air traffic hub

Iswaran said the introduction of the vaccinated itineraries was part of an effort to restore the city-state as an international air hub.

Before the pandemic, Singapore’s Changi Airport was among the busiest in the world and 68.3 million passengers handled in 2019. However, that dropped by more than 80% to just 11.8 million passengers in 2020. according to local media.

“What we are trying to do through our vaccinated itineraries with countries in North America, Europe and Asia is to make it clear that we are finding ways to safely open international aviation and Singapore’s status as an international air hub,” Iswaran said.

News of the expansion of the conditional itinerary program saw aviation-related stocks soar on Monday morning. Singapore Airlines rose 7.8% while CLAUSE – which offers groundhandling and catering services – gained 5.04%.

The total number of infections stands at 126,966 on Sunday with 162 deaths. However, 98.5% of those infected in the past 28 days had no or mild symptoms, according to the country’s health ministry.