COVID-19: Singapore to set 'travel bubbles'

Singapore to set 'travel bubbles' with countries where COVID-19 is under control; cases reach 33,860

AFP/File photo

Singapore is planning to establish "travel bubbles" with countries where coronavirus is under control, authorities said as the city-state on Friday reported 611 new COVID-19 cases, a majority of them foreign workers living in dormitories.

Singapore's tally of infections now stands at 33,860 and majority of them are foreign workers holding work permit and residing in the dormitories, the Health Ministry said.

Of the 611 new cases reported on Friday, 608 were foreign workers and three were Singapore citizens or permanent residents (foreigners), the ministry said, adding that a total of 1,018 COVID-19 patients were discharged on Thursday.

All patients assessed to be clinically well and no longer infectious by day 21 of their illness will be sent home without having to undergo further tests, said the ministry.

But as a further precaution, they have to stay at home or in their dormitories for seven more days until day 28, the Straits Times said.

Previously, patients needed two negative swab tests, 24 hours apart, to be discharged, even if they have not been sick for some time.

Twenty-three people have died from COVID-19 in Singapore, while nine who tested positive have died of other causes.

As of Thursday, 503 coronavirus patients are hospitalised, seven are in critical condition and 14,422 isolated in community facilities for mild symptoms.

A total of 18,294 patients have been discharged.

Meanwhile, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Thursday said that, Singapore will remove restrictions on essential trips progressively amid moves to establish "green lanes" with countries where COVID-19 is under control but mass travel will still be out, the report said.

He noted that mass travel "will take a lot longer to resume, not just in Singapore, but also internationally".

Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force on COVID-19, said protocols for essential travel would include testing travellers leaving and entering Singapore.

Discussions with other countries to establish "travel bubbles" are at varying stages, with some at more advanced levels while others have only just commenced, he said.

Details will be announced when agreements have been reached, the report said.

"And with these testing protocols in place we can have assurance that the traveller is free from infection, and then essential travel can then resume, step by step, depending on the countries that we have established these green lanes or travel bubbles with," Wong noted.

A traveller entering Singapore will get a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction test or, if they have been infected before, a serology test.

Visitors to Singapore will have to enable the TraceTogether application or carry a wearable dongle to ensure that contact tracing can be done quickly if needed.

These measures will ensure that Singaporeans can continue to work, not just here but in places where they need to travel for business, Wong said.

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