SINGAPORE: Singapore and China have agreed to launch a "fast lane" arrangement in early June to facilitate essential travel for business and official purposes, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement on Friday (May 29).
The arrangement includes having "effective COVID-19 prevent and control measures in place", and will be first applied between the six Chinese provinces or municipalities directly under the central government - Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang - and Singapore.
"The arrangement will be gradually expanded to the other Chinese provinces and municipalities. Both sides agreed to explore the increase of air links between the two countries for the fast lane," MFA said.
"Both sides attached great significance to securing the connectivity of production and supply chains, and agreed to level up the efficiency of freight linkages and customs clearance, including facilitating the flow of goods such as essential medical supplies and food," the ministry added.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said on Thursday that the Government is in talks with its foreign counterparts to establish travel bubbles with countries where the spread of COVID-19 is under control.
It will only be for essential travel, to cater to businesses that require employees to move around the region. Both countries must implement testing regimes, he added.
READ: COVID-19: Phase 2 of post-circuit breaker reopening could begin before end-June, says Lawrence Wong
READ: Singapore to gradually reopen borders, plans to resume essential travel among countries with low COVID-19 transmission rate
The arrangement was discussed at the 2nd China-Singapore joint meeting on COVID-19, which was held via video conference on Thursday. The meeting was chaired by MFA permanent secretary Chee Wee Kiong and Mr Luo Zhaohui, vice-minister of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting was also attended by the representatives from both sides covering education, trade and industry, customs, immigration, transport and health.
During the meeting, the two countries expressed appreciation for the mutual support and assistance rendered during the COVID-19 pandemic, "including to nationals living in each others' countries during this period", MFA said.
"They agreed to continue providing facilitation and support, as appropriate, to the nationals residing in each other's country on their medical treatment and stay."
The ministry added that both sides had "agreed that the prevention and control of COVID-19 and the economic and social recovery in both countries have entered a new phase".
They had also agreed to "further strengthen" cooperation to better serve COVID-19 prevention and control, as well as the national development in both countries.
MFA said both sides looked forward to the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) Meeting to be hosted by Singapore this year, which is the apex bilateral platform between China and Singapore to "further strengthen cooperation, including on public health issues".
They had expressed support for the early convening of the Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to implement the outcomes of the earlier Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 and agreed on the importance of enhancing regional cooperation on prevention and control of the disease.
"Both sides agreed to support the leading role of the World Health Organization in the global campaign against COVID-19, and called for concerted and collaborative efforts by all parties, which will put the international community in good stead to manage the impact of the global pandemic," MFA said.
"Both sides agreed to further advance high-quality cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, especially by maintaining progress in our three Government-to-Government projects, including maximising the role of the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative-New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (CCI-ILSTC) in further strengthening trade connectivity between Western China and Southeast Asia; enhancing financial connectivity and strengthening third-party market cooperation," the ministry added.