Singapore may re-open borders by year-end, says PM

SINGAPORE (CNA) – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a TV interview he hoped Singapore would start re-opening its borders by the end of the year as more countries ramp up vaccination drives against COVID-19 infections.

Singapore has largely banned leisure travel, but has put in place some business and official travel programmes. It is also discussing the mutual recognition of vaccine certificates with other nations.

“I hope if that many countries can have substantial proportions of their populations vaccinated by later this year, we will be able to have the confidence and to have developed the systems to open up our international borders to travel safely again,” Lee said in an interview with BBC that aired yesterday.

“Hopefully by the end of this year or next year, the doors can start to open, if not earlier,” he said.

File photo shows a Singapore Airlines passenger checking in at the automated booth at the international departure area of Changi Airport. PHOTO: AFP

Singapore has brought its COVID-19 situation under control with few new local cases and has been rolling out its vaccination programme, having approved shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

As of March 8, the country has administered just over 611,000 doses of vaccines among a population of 5.7 million – a much slower pace compared to larger nations. But it has said it plans to vaccinate everyone by year-end.

Lee said few local cases meant the country could take the time to persuade its population to take the vaccine. Some are hesitant due to the low risk of infection and concern about possible side effects from rapidly developed vaccines. Singapore has also received China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine ahead of approval. The Prime Minister said Singapore was evaluating the vaccine and will use it if it passes safety and effectiveness standards.

“If (the Sinovac vaccine) passes muster in terms of safety and effectiveness, we will use it. We will use vaccines from any source,” he said.

“Vaccines do not carry a nationality. Is it good or is it no good? Does it work? If it does, then we will use it.”

Singapore’s economy recorded its worst recession in 2020 due to the pandemic, after being bruised the previous year by trade tensions between the United States and China.