Air travel in Asia will not return to pre-Covid levels 'anytime soon,' says the Singapore minister

Air-travel-in-Asia-will-not-return-topre-Covid-levels -anytime-soon,'-says-the-Singapore-minister

June 18, 2021: -Singapore’s Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said “open and free” air travel in Asia is unlikely in the near term as parts of the region battle with a rise in coronavirus infections.

“I am somewhat less sanguine about the prospects for air travel,” Wong told Martin Soong as part of the virtual CNBC Evolve Global Summit.

“The region is still facing rolling waves of infection, and vaccination rates for the countries in the region are still not that high. So, I don’t think we will be able to see open and free travel in the region any time soon,” says the minister, who also co-chairs the coronavirus task force of Singapore.

Singapore is a Southeast Asian city-state without a domestic air travel market. International travel stopped in the past year because of the pandemic, and that’s hurt Singapore’s aviation and tourism sectors, two significant contributors to economic growth. 

The Singapore government continues to talk to counterparts in the region about setting up “safe travel lanes,” says Wong. He didn’t specify the names of the places.

“Perhaps with the countries having low and stable infections, we have some arrangements to travel. Perhaps for vaccinated travelers, there may be few benefits in terms of short quarantine times,” said the minister.

“But for the most part, all of that is not going to add up to what we used to have pre-Covid. So, air travel, I’m afraid, will take some time to recover,” Wong further said.

Singapore has an air travel bubble agreement with Hong Kong that will permit travelers to skip quarantine. But the scheme’s launch has been postponed twice, first from November and then again in May, due to renewed Covid outbreaks in either city.

Last week, the prime ministers of Singapore and Australia said they would work toward an air travel bubble arrangement between the two countries.

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