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COVID-19: ASEAN and Australia, New Zealand should work to ease travel restrictions, says PM Lee

COVID-19: ASEAN and Australia, New Zealand should work to ease travel restrictions, says PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the ASEAN-New Zealand Leaders Summit on Nov 14, 2020. (Photo: MCI)

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (Nov 14) called on Australia and New Zealand to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ease border restrictions, saying this will facilitate the resumption of economic activity as the COVID-19 pandemic stabilises.

Mr Lee was speaking at separate virtual summits involving ASEAN and the two countries.

"The reopening of our borders in a safe and calibrated manner will facilitate the resumption of economic activity, and is an important confidence marker for our peoples and businesses," said Mr Lee at the second ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit.

He noted that Singapore has lifted border restrictions to allow visitors from Australia, adding that he hopes Australia will also ease its own border restrictions "in good time".

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attending the 2nd ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit on Nov 14, 2020. (Photo: MCI)

READ: Australia may see first week of no local COVID-19 transmissions

In a similar message during the ASEAN-New Zealand Leaders Summit, Mr Lee said the two sides should progressively and safely lift current travel restrictions.

"This is a critical enabler of our economic recovery, and will signal to the rest of the world that ASEAN and its partners are open for business," he said.

Singapore lifted border restrictions to visitors from New Zealand because it has done "a commendable job" controlling the spread of COVID-19.

"(Singapore) Iooks forward to New Zealand similarly lifting its restrictions on cross border travel as soon as it is ready to do so," said Mr Lee.

READ: Singapore to waive stay-home notice for New Zealand and Brunei travellers, will test them for COVID-19 on arrival

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Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders to travellers from Vietnam, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia.

Unlike the fast or green lane arrangements, this includes all forms of short-term travel, including for leisure.

For Australia and New Zealand, however, their governments have not lifted border restrictions, advising their residents not to travel abroad. Those who need to travel must apply for an exemption. 

READ: Southeast Asian leaders begin ASEAN summit amid 'major power rivalries'

READ: PM Lee says Singapore to contribute US$100,000 to COVID-19 ASEAN fund, hails RCEP signing as 'major achievement'

During the summits, Mr Lee also highlighted that Singapore, Australia and New Zealand share the same views on "vaccine multilateralism" and are Friends of the COVAX Facility. 

"We should complement that with cooperation in vaccine research and development, and by building up our vaccine manufacturing capacities to support regional demand," he said at the summit involving New Zealand.

READ: Asia Pacific leaders to sign RCEP trade deal amid US election uncertainty

READ: What is the RCEP trade deal and what happens now?

On trade and economic recovery, Mr Lee welcomed the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is scheduled to take place on Sunday. 

Australia and New Zealand are part of the RCEP agreement, along with the 10-member ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea.

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Source: CNA/ic(gs)

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