Casino jurisdiction Singapore confirmed on Sunday it was in talks with regional neighbour Australia about joint easing of Covid-19 -related travel restrictions.
The city-state said it was discussing with Australian authorities “the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resumption of travel with priority for students and business travellers”.
On Friday, Singapore’s Transport Minister, Ong Ye Kung, had stated in a radio interview that the country was exploring ways to open up its borders and revive air travel.
“Nobody is going to come to Singapore and stay for 14 days,” Mr Ong was quoted as saying, alluding to quarantine protocols even for those permitted to enter.
Singapore’s visitor arrivals for 2020 declined by 85.7 percent year-on-year to 2.74 million, according to data released earlier this year.
Most of those that did come in 2020, did so in the first two months of the year, before the full effects of the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.
The city-state’s policy of introducing casino resorts was aimed specifically as boosting inbound tourism.
Gaming and leisure complexes Resorts World Sentosa, run by Genting Singapore Ltd, and Marina Bay Sands, run by a unit of Las Vegas Sands Corp, opened respectively in 2010.
On December 1, the Hong Kong government had announced that the start of a mooted Hong Kong-Singapore air-travel bubble had been deferred to “beyond 2020” by mutual agreement between the two places, due to “recent developments of the Covid-19 epidemic in Hong Kong”.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was making the Sunday statement on possible easing of travel to and from Australia, following a report that day in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Australia and Singapore plan for travel bubble and quarantine hub by July”.
But the ministry stated the two sides were “not in discussion on the concept of a quarantine centre or vaccination hub”.
The ministry further stated: “Australia is a key partner of Singapore in the region. We are in discussions on how to cooperate in opening our economies safely, taking into consideration the Covid-19 situation in both countries.”
In his Friday interview, Transport Minister Mr Ong had mentioned that opening up required reciprocity.
He noted there had already been some easing – by Singapore on a unilateral basis – regarding inbound travel from Australia, New Zealand and China.
The official was cited as saying bilateral travel bubbles for vaccinated people coming from places with low to moderate infection rates might be possible in the second half of this year.
As of 12 noon on Sunday, Singapore had 107 active recorded cases of Covid-19, said the Ministry of Health. As of that time, 59,968 people had recovered from the disease, and there had been 30 deaths from the disease in the city-state, according to the ministry.
As of March 8, a total of 392,620 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered locally. In 218,694 instances, a second dose had already been completed.
At the “current trajectory”, vaccination of the Singapore population against Covid-19 “could be completed by third-quarter 2021, which would help open up the local market considerably,” regarding casino play, said Union Gaming Securities LLC in a February 23 note, echoing a recent forecast by Singapore’s government.
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Chief operating officer of Macau casino operator Sands China