Safe Travel Office set up under ICA for 'easier and smoother' traveller experience as borders gradually reopen

Safe Travel Office set up under ICA for 'easier and smoother' traveller experience as borders gradually reopen

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has set up a Safe Travel Office (STO) to ensure an easier and smoother traveller experience with the gradual reopening of borders, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday (Aug 27) in his ministry’s addendum to the President’s address. Jeraldine Yap with more.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has set up a Safe Travel Office (STO) to ensure an easier and smoother traveller experience with the gradual reopening of borders, Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said on Thursday (Aug 27) in his ministry’s addendum to the President’s address.

This comes as Singapore sees stable local community transmission of COVID-19 and embarks on various travel schemes with other countries, he said.

President Halimah Yacob told Parliament on Monday that Singapore will safely resume air travel to maintain its role as a global and regional hub.

READ: Opening of 14th Parliament: President Halimah outlines Government’s priorities in fight against COVID-19 crisis

“To support this, MHA has set up a Safe Travel Office ... to provide a single touchpoint for all travellers, and also provide coordination across the many agencies involved in the various travel schemes,” Mr Shanmugam said in the addendum.

“The STO will make for an easier and smoother traveller experience.”

Singapore has reciprocal travel arrangements with Malaysia and China, with plans for similar schemes with Japan and Thailand. The Government also announced last Friday that it will ease restrictions for travellers from several countries including Brunei and New Zealand.

READ: Reviving Singapore's air hub safely is transport ministry's 'top and immediate priority'

Mr Shanmugam said land, air and sea borders are currently screened using test kits designed in-house by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX). Swab samples are analysed at HTX’s laboratory, with travellers getting their results by the next day.

“HTX will put its technological capabilities and scientific expertise to use in the fight against the virus,” Mr Shanmugam added.

“In addition, technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles, patrol robots and remote sensors are being deployed for monitoring of key facilities to better detect crowding and ensure safe distancing.”

READ: Singapore’s research and innovation key in fight against COVID-19, creation of growth opportunities: Heng Swee Keat

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY

The Home Team will continue to leverage technology to better protect Singaporeans in areas like crime solving and rescue operations, Mr Shanmugam said.

“We will continue to build up our network of sensors, and use analytics to detect, deter, and solve crimes faster and more effectively,” he added.

“Robots and unmanned autonomous vehicles will play a greater role in search-and-rescue, fire-fighting and hazardous materials operations.”

The Home Team is leveraging simulation training with realistic scenarios for officers to develop competencies in a safe environment, Mr Shanmugam continued, with an Ops-Tech career track to nurture uniformed officers grounded in operations and proficient in technology.

READ: Home Team to train more tech-skilled officers with new career track

Mr Shanmugam also pledged to strengthen collaboration and operational effectiveness within the Home Team, and said that the upcoming Home Team Operations Centre will act as an integrated 24/7 coordination hub to manage and monitor Home Team operations more effectively.

“We will develop more joint operations plans and conduct more joint exercises,” he said. “We will build more joint capabilities, including in the areas of command, control and communications, and logistics and other support functions.”

READ: SAF will ‘comprehensively relook’ how it operates, trains and works amid COVID-19 pandemic

STRENGTHENING LAWS

Beyond that, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore will continue to strengthen its legislation and regulatory regimes to deal with emerging and evolving threats.

For instance, the ministry will review its drug laws to improve deterrence and enforcement, as well as strengthen the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s investigative and enforcement powers against fire safety violations.

“We will consider the need for new legislation to better guard against foreign interference in our domestic politics, and counter hostile information campaigns mounted by foreign actors,” Mr Shanmugam added.

READ: Maintaining and strengthening relations with immediate neighbours 'more critical than ever': Vivian Balakrishnan

The minister warned that terrorist and militant groups continue to be active, with ISIS’ propaganda remaining “widely available” online and posing a radicalising influence.

“It is thus important that we build up our people’s resilience against the threat of terrorism,” he said. “In this regard, we will deepen the community’s participation in our safety and security efforts through the SGSecure movement.”

Mr Shanmugam said MHA will also partner the community, including stakeholders like financial institutions, telecommunications companies and Internet platforms, to combat the “growing problem” of scams.

Overall crime in Singapore rose by about 11 per cent in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period last year, mainly due to scam cases, the police said on Wednesday.

“To better deal with the threat of scams, we recently set up the Inter-Ministry Committee on Scams, which will coordinate efforts across the Government to innovate and implement cross-cutting solutions,” Mr Shanmugam said.

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Mr Shanmugam said the Singapore Prison Service and Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) will step up collaboration with community partners to support ex-offenders through training and employment assistance.

“As part of YRSG’s recent rebranding, YRSG will be enhancing the career prospects of ex-offenders, by shifting from a training and job placement model to one that emphasises skills for long-term career development,” he said.

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Source: CNA/dv

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