Singapore wants to eventually allow all travelers to skip quarantine in the country as long as they are vaccinated, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said.
In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, he said: “With greater vaccination and boosting of populations, and also better testing and safe management protocols, I think we have now been able to put in place a series of measures to restart travel.”
That has meant a steady build-up of so-called vaccinated travel lanes, Iswaran said. Singapore established these lanes with certain countries that allow vaccinated travelers to visit without having to serve quarantine.
“We do want to pivot to … as long as the traveler is vaccinated and can prove that, they should be able to enter the country without quarantine,” Iswaran said.
As of the end of last year, Singapore’s passenger traffic was at about 15% of pre-Covid volume, and the city-state wants to “build on that momentum,” he added.
Singapore has previously said that it wants to ease restrictions after its current omicron wave peaks. This year, it has seen local infections rising to as high as over 20,000 cases per day, but that has fallen in recent weeks to over 10,000 a day.
Singapore economic outlook
Iswaran also told CNBC that the recent energy price shock will hit Singapore hard.
“I think as a small open economy, we’re always significantly exposed to exogenous impact,” he said, responding to a question on how vulnerable the city-state is to recession.
“And so in this instance, the impact to these increases in the price of energy is something that will cut through the whole economy,” he added.
Oil prices have spiked since Russia invaded Ukraine as concerns rise over the already-tight supply. The U.S. banned Russian energy imports and the U.K. and European Union also said they would phase out the country’s fossil imports.
Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer after the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. It’s also the biggest exporter of crude oil to global markets and the top supplier of natural gas to the European Union, about 43%.
However crude prices fell over 10% on Wednesday on the back of indications that the U.S. might have made progress in boosting oil production from other sources. Still, U.S. crude and international benchmark Brent are still up over 20% since the beginning of February.
Analysts have warned that a sustained spike in energy prices would send inflation soaring, hitting consumer wallets.
Iswaran told CNBC that Singapore has accelerated its timeframe for transitioning to greener transport, such as making charging infrastructure for electric vehicles widely available by 2025. But he indicated that initiative is separate from rising energy prices.
“The transition to EVs predates this energy shock because really, it is about moving towards cleaner energy vehicles and making them the dominant component in the first instance, and eventually to take over the entire vehicle fleet that we have in Singapore,” he said.
Iswaran added that despite the push for electric vehicles, Singapore ultimately wants to prioritize reducing the number of vehicles on roads.
“Really, as a small city-state, land scarce, our approach has always been to fundamentally prioritize car-light strategy,” he said.