Singapore, China agree on ‘fast lane’ arrangement for essential travel from early June

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Singapore and mainland China have agreed to allow essential travel for business and official purposes between the two countries in early June, according to a joint statement.The Fast Lane arrangement will be first applied between Singapore and six Chinese provinces or municipalities directly under the central government, and will gradually expand to include additional areas. Covid-19 prevention and control measures will remain in place.

The initial agreement applies to travel between Singapore and Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

The Singapore skyline is seen across Marina Bay. Photo: AFP

The Singapore skyline is seen across Marina Bay. Photo: AFP

The announcement follows the second China-Singapore joint meeting on Covid-19, held on Thursday via video conference and led by permanent secretary Chee Wee Kiong of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore and China’s vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui.

“Both sides agreed to explore the increase of air links between the two countries for the Fast Lane,” the statement said.

The agreement comes as countries cautiously seek to begin so-called “travel bubbles” after the pandemic shut down borders earlier this year.CORONAVIRUS UPDATEGet updates direct to your inboxSUBSCRIBEBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

China, where the coronavirus first emerged, appears to have brought its cases under control, while Singapore is moving toward opening its economy after wrestling to contain an outbreak among thousands of foreign workers.Lockdown measures are starting to ease across many Asian countries. In a Facebook post on Friday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country will explore reopening borders gradually “when the time is right”.

Singapore ministers have previously said the Southeast Asian nation is likely to “start small and selectively” for any border reopening, while continuing to impose a mix of isolation and test requirements.

Singapore is prepared to work bilaterally with countries and regions if there are sufficient precautions, such as testing before departure and upon arrival, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

Wong said that the government wants “travel bubbles” linking Singapore to countries where “the virus situation is under control.”

Similar plans are being discussed elsewhere among other countries that appear to have stemmed the spread of the virus, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

According to The Straits Times, the joint meeting was also attended by education, trade and industry, customs, immigration, transport and health representatives from both countries. They discussed enhanced cooperation and issues such as the importance of securing production and supply chains, and facilitating the free flow of goods such as medical supplies and food.

On Friday, Singapore’s health ministry confirmed 611 new coronavirus cases, taking the city state’s tally for infections to 33,860.

It said 99 per cent of the new cases are linked to existing clusters, and that 19,631 patients had fully recovered and been discharged from hospitals or community care facilities.

Additional reporting by Reuters and dpaSign up now and get a 10% discount (original price US$400) off the China AI Report 2020 by SCMP Research. Learn about the AI ambitions of Alibaba, Baidu & through our in-depth case studies, and explore new applications of AI across industries. The report also includes exclusive access to webinars to interact with C-level executives from leading China AI companies (via live Q&A sessions). Offer valid until 31 May 2020.