Additional restrictions on travellers from China not needed for now, but new variant might emerge

Singapore's high vaccination rate made restrictions unnecessary for now.

Sulaiman Daud | Tan Min-Wei | December 26, 2022, 01:51 PM

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As China exits from its Zero Covid stance and prepares to reopen, there have been concerns voiced over the rapidly increasing numbers of Covid infections, and potentially mutated variants of the disease.

Experts in Singapore's infectious diseases community have said that despite these worries, there is no need for additional restrictions on travellers entering from China.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) also did not indicate they would implement additional restrictions on travellers entering Singapore from China.

No need to tighten restrictions

Experts quoted by Today have said that there is no need for Singapore to tighten entry requirements for travellers from China.

They cite Singapore's high vaccination rate, as well as the fact that China's infections rates are not higher than comparable countries.

An officer from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), speaking to Today, referred to the current requirements for travel into Singapore, which still require a minimum vaccine dosage to have been taken at least 14 days before entering Singapore.

Otherwise a traveller will require a negative Covid-19 test result before travelling to Singapore.

Expert opinion

Paul Tambyah, who is President of the International Society of Infectious Diseases,  said that there was little evidence that travel restrictions on China would help.

The Singapore Democratic Party politician told Today the reason for this was that China's rate of infection was similar to other temperate countries such as Germany and the United States.

Alex Cook, who is vice-dean of research at NUS' Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said that Singapore had already encountered a situation where it was encountering tens of thousands of cases a day earlier in the year.

Despite this, the Covid-19 epidemic "could not sustain itself", and that there would not be much epidemiological impact from "a few hundred cases a day from China".

However, Cook warned of the possibility of a new variant arising from the new infections in China.

SIA's statement

When asked by Mothership if SIA planned to implement additional restrictions on travellers coming from China, an SIA spokesperson did not indicate that there would be additional such restrictions.

Instead, it would be guided by local health and safety regulations imposed by the authorities. Their full statement is as follows:

"The health and safety of our customers and staff is our utmost priority. From check-in to arrival, we have in place comprehensive health and safety measures such as enhanced cleaning and rigorous disinfecting, as well as meaningful innovations to minimise contact. You can find more information about them here.

Singapore Airlines remains guided by all local health and safety regulations imposed by the relevant authorities, and works closely with them to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff. Customers travelling to China and Singapore can visit our travel information centre for information about the entry requirements.

Reopening woes

China has been adhering to the toughest anti-Covid regime in the world since the pandemic started in 2020 but has relaxed these restrictions in recent weeks.

These relaxations appear to have led to a significant Covid wave, albeit amongst uncertain data.

The relaxation has also caused some concern about the potential impact of Chinese travellers coming to Singapore.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, giving remarks while visiting a mobile vaccination centre in Hong Kah North Community Club on Dec. 12, said:

"It is a big unknown in terms of what is happening in China. They are taking swift decisive steps to open their economy and society. This is bound to drive up the infections which we are not so worried about per se, because our resilience is high. We have gone already through three waves this year.

But the question is, with 1.3 billion people mostly uninfected in China, and with the disease starting to spread, we are bound to get new variants, and what worries us more is what kind of mutations will come out of it. That is what we are watching."

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