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