Five passengers from Brunei on essential travel arrive in Singapore

Azlan Othman

Five travellers from Brunei and nine from New Zealand touched down at Changi Airport
on Tuesday.

According to Singapore media, they make up the first 14 visitors to come to Singapore as a result of the unilateral re-opening of borders to the two countries. Applications opened a week ago.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said it approved 59 travellers from Brunei and 77 from New Zealand to fly to Singapore, as of 5pm on Tuesday.

Brunei has two flights to Singapore weekly, flying a total of 500 visitors. There are four flights weekly to Singapore from New Zealand flying a total of 1,200 passengers.

The boost in visitor arrivals is expected to be limited, given that travel restrictions and advisories are still in place in both countries.

The Brunei Government is only allowing citizens, permanent residents and long-term visa holders who have to undergo urgent medical care overseas, attend court hearings and resume studies abroad to leave the country.

These visitors will come under the Air Travel Pass Scheme which allows for leisure travel, as well as all forms of short-term travel.

It is a different scheme from the reciprocal green lane arrangements between countries reserved for essential business and official travel.

Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand have been given the go-ahead, as both have the coronavirus situation under control and the risk of importing COVID-19 is low. Visitors will still be required to take a swab test upon arrival in Singapore.

They must use the TraceTogether app for the duration of their stay in Singapore, among other conditions.

Last month, Singapore authorities said their border restrictions will be partially eased from September 1 to allow people to travel to Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand for general purposes including leisure, as well as for students to travel overseas for studies.

At the same time, travellers entering Singapore and who have remained in either Brunei Darussalam or New Zealand two weeks before their entry will not be required to serve a stay-home notice.

These visitors, however, will be responsible for their own medical bills if they require treatment for COVID-19 while in Singapore, said Singapore’s Ministry of Health last month.

During a press conference last week, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said, “If the visitor comes from a low-risk country to Brunei Darussalam, what is required is a negative COVID-19 (RT-PCR) swab test result within 72 hours before departure.

“They can then enter the country and stay at a hotel for two days, where they will be administered another test. If the second test is negative, they can leave the hotel.”

He added, “Singapore is in the low-risk category, so those travelling from Singapore to Brunei Darussalam will have to stay in a hotel for two days and undergo swab tests.

“Through discussions with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the precaution is considered adequate, especially with the introduction of controlled itinerary in the green lane travel arrangement.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew also emphasised on the arrangement being restricted to essential travel and not the re-opening of borders for all.

“It’s only for people who need to travel to Brunei Darussalam. This is for essential travel only, such as business,” he said.

“For example, if they come here for medical reasons, they should travel from the hotel to the hospital, and go directly back to the hotel. They are not free to move about.

“The sponsor or guarantor of the traveller will be taking on the responsibility of monitoring the itinerary, and they must use the BruHealth app and have a local number.”