Singapore's first priority is its Covid-19 situation at home, says Vivian Balakrishnan

WASHINGTON – Singapore’s first priority is to control the Covid-19 pandemic at home and ensure healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said.

The issue of relaxation of travel curbs with Asean is being actively discussed, he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday (Sept 25).

“For a start we’ve got to settle mutual recognition of health certificates, vaccine certificates, that’s in a sense making sure our digital systems, our ability to verify records, are in place” Dr Balakrishnan said.

“The second step is to actually decide when and how we can actually liberalise and allow travel. This is a much more difficult point, because even in the case of Singapore, these decisions whether to open or tighten depend very much on the domestic situation at that point in time.”

“Right now is the time to be careful,” he said.

The foreign minister said the Singapore government has had to introduce more measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the country, in order not to overload its medical facilities.

“It’s a domestic priority to get to grips with the situation, and then as we can, to also look at careful reopening of our borders, especially for Singaporeans who want to return home or… business partners who want to visit Singapore,” Dr Balakrishnan said.

“But I want to emphasise again, priority number one must remain the protection of Singaporeans, ensuring our healthcare facilities do not get overwhelmed, and then when we are sure we have that in place then sequentially, safely, carefully open up our borders.”

“We are not out of the woods yet”, both in Singapore and globally, he added.

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