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Singapore and Indonesia should have ‘same level of control’ over COVID-19 cases before travel resumes: Vivian Balakrishnan

The Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister also said he was "pessimistic" about developments in Myanmar, an issue he discussed with Indonesian leaders.

Singapore and Indonesia should have ‘same level of control’ over COVID-19 cases before travel resumes: Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Mar 25, 2021 (Photo: Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

JAKARTA: Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said on Friday (Mar 26) that Singapore and Indonesia should ideally have the "same level of control" over COVID-19 transmissions before travel arrangements can begin to resume.

In an interview to wrap up his visit to Jakarta, Dr Balakrishnan said that the resumption of travel must be done in a gradual, safe and cautious manner. 

"I would like to reiterate the point that we need the COVID-19 situation to improve significantly. Ideally for them to achieve the same level of control as we have currently in Singapore, which means every day we have between zero and one community case locally," said Dr Balakrishnan. 

He noted that travel amid the pandemic cannot be like the days prior to COVID-19, until the situation normalises and equalises across the different destinations.

The minister also emphasised the need for testing, vaccination, and the ability to share verifiable and authoritative records, in order to enable cross-border travel.

"So, this will take some time, and that’s why I completely agree with Mdm Retno (Marsudi)’s point. Let’s do it gradually, carefully and cautiously. That’s the way to do it. 

"The last thing you want is to run before you are ready. And then you get a big cluster ... So have some patience, but rest assured we are working on this.”

Last weekend, Indonesia's tourism and creative economy minister Sandiaga Uno said he hoped to open a "safe travel corridor" between Singapore, Batam Nongsa and Bintan Lagoi on Apr 21. 

READ: Singapore-Batam-Bintan 'travel corridor' meant for Singapore tourists only, says Indonesian minister

On Friday, Indonesia reported 4,982 new cases. There are almost 1.5 million confirmed cases in Indonesia.

Singapore reported 12 new COVID-19 infections on Friday. There are more than 60,000 confirmed cases in the city-state.

Dr Balakrishnan is in Jakarta for a two-day working visit.

On Thursday, he met his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi where they discussed the preparations for the upcoming Leaders' Retreat. Both also backed an ASEAN summit on Myanmar. 

Meeting between Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi on Mar 25, 2021. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore)

READ: Singapore and Indonesia leaders to meet in person during a retreat later this year

MYANMAR SITUATION WILL “TAKE QUITE SOME TIME TO RESOLVE”

Commenting on developments in Myanmar, Dr Balakrishnan said he discussed the issue at some length with Indonesian leaders.

“It is not a happy topic. It is a tragedy that is unfolding and it is going to take quite some time to resolve. So I must confess to be pessimistic,” he said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold placards and a cutout with the image of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, February 15, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

He said that it is essential for ASEAN to consider how it can have a constructive presence beside Myanmar.

“We still do not believe in foreign interference in domestic politics but as a fellow member state of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we hope they will take into consideration the views of our leaders … to have a chance to quietly, confidentially, and openly among themselves arrive at the set of conclusions.”

There has been talk of a proposed summit among ASEAN leaders on Myanmar.

“All the different ASEAN countries now practically have to do their homework, and then this will form the agenda and the basis for the more detailed discussions among them,” he said.

READ: Myanmar activists call for Armed Forces Day protests

He added: “Don’t expect quick solutions.”

He said that at the end of the day, Myanmar needs national reconciliation and all stakeholders will have to sit down to have frank, open and constructive dialogue.

Dr Balakrishnan said there is a need to fulfill the aspirations of Myanmar’s young people. “We have to find ways to give them security, the peace, the stability and the opportunities that they so richly deserve,” he said.

‘This kind of turmoil will set them back potentially a generation. Let’s hope for the best.” 

Dr Balakrishnan will return to Singapore on Friday evening.

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Source: CNA/ks

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