Singapore will strive to keep its borders open and stay connected to the rest of world even if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges, Singaporean Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said on Wednesday.
The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants, Iswaran said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
When the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 hit, Singapore did not backtrack on its reopening plans, but rather decided to wait and see how things panned out, he said, adding that the response was different versus the Delta outbreak.
“We’ve all learned to adapt,” Iswaran said on the sidelines of the Changi Aviation Summit. “We have more tools in the toolkit. It’s not as if you always only have a hammer. Now I’ve got you know, a wrench and a screwdriver, and all kinds of other things as well.”
“It really comes down to an assessment of the situation and the risk, and then to take a calibrated response,” he added.
Singapore was among the first countries in Asia to reopen its borders, initially allowing entry to fully vaccinated people from selected countries late last year without quarantine to help revive the nation’s aviation and tourism sectors.
Since then, other restrictions have been progressively removed and Changi Airport is now working to keep up with demand.
However, while travel is returning, optimism is being tempered by some challenges as companies scale up operations, Iswaran said.
The government is helping airlines, airport ground handlers and other firms to hire more people to meet demand, he said.
“This is a challenge of transition,” he said. “We’re working very hard at the system level and with aviation stakeholders individually and collectively, really pulling together. Our overriding objective is to make sure Changi is well prepared for this transition.”
Passenger traffic at Changi Airport should reach more than 40 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels this month compared with less than 20 percent in March.
The government expects that figure to touch 50 percent later this year and plans to reopen one of the two terminals closed due to the pandemic. Terminal 2 and 4 were shuttered in June 2020 as travel slumped. Terminals 1 and 3 are open, but there are no plans yet on when Terminal 4 is to restart.
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