DPM Heng: S'pore & China may restore normal air travel at appropriate time

Discussions are ongoing.

Julia Yeo | December 08, 2020, 05:49 PM

Singapore and China expressed mutual willingness in restoring normal air travel "at an appropriate time" during discussions at the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) and various Joint Steering Council (JSC) meetings that took place on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

30th anniversary of bilateral relations between S'pore and China

The 16th JCBC, co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, took place via video conference.

The meeting reviewed bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) -- economic cooperation, trade and innovation; financial cooperation; public health cooperation; people-to-people exchanges, and sustainable development.

The China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City, a state-level bilateral cooperation project, was also reviewed at the meeting.

2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations.

S'pore and China expressed willingness to resume normal air travel at appropriate time

During Heng's discussion with Han, both sides reaffirmed the bilateral commitment to enhance connectivity and free trade.

Chinese and Singaporean counterparts both expressed willingness to discuss how to open borders further, including better utilising the existing Singapore-China Fast Lane and increasing flight frequency between the two countries.

Restoring normal people-to-people exchanges at an appropriate time were also discussed, opening a possibility to regular travel between Singapore and China.

Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung shared that "meaningful, substantive steps" have been taken during the meetings, and welcomed this new development.

Future steps will be taken gradually

However, he explained that it was not an appropriate time yet due to the current season, as countries in the northern hemisphere are experiencing winter, and that is when transmissions are more likely to take place.

"But as we move out of winter into spring, where vaccines are already around the corner... that's when I think governments will become a lot more to various ideas to resume normal travel, form travel bubbles, open up the borders and gradually bring back aviation," Ong said.

While Ong shared that he expects a good chance for things to start looking up, he added that new changes would be made gradually.

"The framework that we have put in place here in Singapore where there are unilateral openings, RGLs (Reciprocal Green Lanes), and air travel bubbles, these will continue to be relevant," he explained.

He attributed this projection to the expectation that there will be more vaccination exercises conducted across the world from next year onwards, which would bring down global Covid-19 infection rates.

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Top image via Ministry of Communications and Information