SINGAPORE: New Zealand says it is aware of Singapore's plans to ease travel restrictions for selected countries but will not change its travel advisory to residents, a spokesman for the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Saturday (Aug 22).
“We are aware of Singapore’s intention to establish selective travel programmes with a range of countries, including New Zealand,” the spokesman said, in response to queries from CNA.
“This reflects the close relationship between our two countries and the trust Singapore has in New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.”
However, the spokesman added that New Zealand’s advice to residents not to travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic remains unchanged.
“We will continue to review these settings in response to international developments.”
New Zealand's border remains closed to all but citizens and residents, a spokesperson for Immigration New Zealand told CNA.
"There are some exceptions to the border restrictions but the bar to be granted an exception remains high to protect New Zealand against COVID-19," the spokesperson added.
This comes after Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday that it will update its travel advisory to allow general travel to Brunei and New Zealand.
Under the current advisory, residents are advised to defer all travel abroad, except for essential business and official travel under green-lane and fast-lane arrangements.
People visiting these two countries are advised to check the entry requirements imposed by the respective governments, as well as take the necessary precautions.
MOH also announced on Friday that Singapore will allow some travellers from New Zealand and Brunei to take a COVID-19 test instead of serving a stay-home notice upon arrival.
READ: Allowing some travellers to take COVID-19 tests instead of serving stay-home notices is 'small, cautious step' to reopen aviation: Ong Ye Kung
This applies to travellers who have stayed in Brunei or New Zealand for the past 14 consecutive days. Those who test negative will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore, the ministry added.
"For the two countries we just listed, these are very established systems already. They have shown themselves to be effective (in containing COVID-19), very low case loads ... systems that give us a lot of confidence,” said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.
The decision was made unilaterally, but does not preclude the possibility of future reciprocal green lane arrangements with other like-minded countries for essential business travel.
Singapore could also go a step further to upgrade such arrangements into broader “travel bubbles or travel corridors”, Mr Ong said.
There are currently four flights a week operating between Singapore and New Zealand, and two flights a week between Singapore and Brunei, he noted.
"So, all in all, I think this is a small, cautious step to reopen aviation and resuscitate Changi Airport as well as Singapore Airlines," he added.
"I believe we can strike a good balance between keeping Singapore safe and (keeping) travellers here safe, as well as reviving the air traffic sector.
"Remember, as a small open economy, to survive, we have got to keep our borders open. To earn a living, we have got to have connections with the world. To thrive, to prosper, we must be an aviation hub."
MOH also reduced the 14-day stay-home notice period for travellers coming in from “low-risk” countries and regions to seven days.
These countries and regions are Australia (excluding Victoria state), Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Travellers will be tested before the end of the isolation period.