Singapore to open vaccinated travel lanes with Indonesia, Middle East


JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met her Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan in the island state on Tuesday to hold talks on the opening of a travel lane between the two neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

The meeting follows Singapore’s announcement on Monday that it will extend its vaccinated travel lane scheme with Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE.

The Foreign Mnistry said in a statement that Indonesia and Singapore have agreed to discuss arrangements for the vaccinated travel lane based on reciprocity and to work out further details on the unilateral vaccinated travel lane that Singapore will launch on Nov. 29 for Indonesian travelers on a point-to-point basis between Jakarta and Singapore.

“Singapore’s foreign minister conveyed that the unilateral vaccinated travel lane that Singapore applies [to Indonesia] is based on trust, improved COVID-19 situation in Indonesia, and high vaccination rate,” Marsudi said in the statement issued after their meeting.

The two foreign ministers also held talks on establishing a safe travel bubble between Singapore and Indonesia’s resort island of Bintan, which is only about an hour away from Singapore by ferry ride.

On Monday, Singapore’s Transport Minister S. Iswaran said during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) multi-ministry task force press conference that in pre-pandemic time, Indonesia was among the top five markets for passenger arrivals at its Changi Airport and made up about 10 percent in 2019 as both countries have close people-to-people ties and Singapore is among the top foreign investors in Indonesia.

The vaccinated travel lane will start with two daily designated flights between Singapore and Jakarta and will progressively increase to four.

Indonesia reopened its borders on Oct. 14 for tourists from 19 countries, excluding Singapore, to arrive at Bali International Airport, but a month since the official reopening, no international flights have landed yet on the resort island.

“We hope that Indonesia will likewise soon reopen its borders to travelers from Singapore,” Iswaran said.

He added that in addition to Indonesia, Singapore also plans to launch vaccinated travel lanes with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE starting Dec. 6 and with India on Nov. 29, citing Singapore’s strong bilateral and economic links with the Middle Eastern countries. More than 400 Singaporean companies set up their base in the UAE, while Singapore hosts a significant presence of Middle Eastern companies that often establish their southeast Asian headquarters in the country.

“It is essential that we re-establish our connectivity with the Middle East,” Iswaran said, adding that extending Singapore’s vaccinated travel lane schemes to the three Gulf countries will restore two-way movement between these countries without requiring travelers to quarantine upon arrival.

Fully vaccinated travelers from Singapore can already enter both the UAE and Saudi Arabia without quarantine, while Qatar requires travelers to self-isolate until they obtain a negative on-arrival PCR result.

“Collectively, we aim to have three to four daily vaccinated travel lane flights with these countries,” Iswaran said.

Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are listed among Singapore’s Category 2 countries, out of its Health Ministry’s four-tiered health measure framework, with Category 1 — comprising Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China and Taiwan — being the safest.

Travelers from countries included in the vaccinated travel lane will not be required to quarantine on arrival but will have to show a negative PCR test result taken within two days prior to departure and take another test upon arrival.

Travelers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE can start applying for the vaccinated travel pass for short-term and long-term visits on Nov. 29.