Thu, October 28, 2021

international

Pilot scheme for quarantine-free business travel to S'pore delayed until at least Feb 21: Sources


SINGAPORE - A pilot programme allowing short-term business travellers to stay, work and meet at dedicated facilities here without the need for quarantine has been delayed until at least Feb 21, The Straits Times has learnt.

The first travellers under the Connect @ Singapore segregated travel lane were supposed to be allowed into Singapore from the second half of last month, but the first dedicated facility these travellers will be put up in under the pilot scheme is now expected to open for check-in only from Feb 21, sources told ST.

Finishing touches are being put to the first phase of the Connect @ Changi facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria, which is the only place earmarked as a possible dedicated facility for the Connect @ Singapore scheme so far.

Under this scheme, business, official and high-economic value travellers on short-term stays of up to 14 days will be put up in a "bubble" away from the community and housed within dedicated facilities such as the one at Singapore Expo.

Those who opt to use this arrangement - likely the first of its kind in the world - will be transported from the airport to these dedicated facilities, and must undergo regular testing and observe prevailing safe management measures.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), which is overseeing the Connect @ Singapore scheme, did not say why the scheme has been delayed.

An MTI spokesman would only say that the start date for applications for the scheme will be "broadly aligned with the estimated operational start date of the first Connect @ Singapore facility".

The Singapore Tourism Board’s executive director for infrastructure planning and management, Mr Chew Tiong Heng, said assessments on the first facility are in the final stage and no reservations have been taken from the travellers yet.

“We are in the process of concluding the appointment process and will make an announcement when ready,” he added.

Temasek Holdings, which is leading a local consortium that is developing the Connect @ Changi facility, declined to give an exact date when asked when the facility would be up and running. But a post by Connect @ Changi's official Facebook page on Saturday (Feb 6) said construction work is almost complete.

Photos show furnished guest rooms and partially-furnished meeting rooms, with some work still going on in the courtyard, common corridors and other areas.

The four-star facility will initially have 670 guest rooms and 170 meeting rooms.

It will increase the capacity to 1,300 guest rooms and 340 meeting rooms by mid-2021.

Temasek's spokesman said: "We remain on track to launch the first phase of Connect @ Changi in Q1 2021, and we'll be sharing launch details in due course."

Pilot scheme for quarantine-free business travel to S'pore delayed until at least Feb 21: Sources
Finishing touches are being put to the first phase of the Connect @ Changi facility at Singapore Expo and Max Atria. PHOTO: CONNECT AT CHANGI/FACEBOOK
Pilot scheme for quarantine-free business travel to S'pore delayed until at least Feb 21: Sources
Those who opt to use this arrangement will be transported from the airport to these dedicated facilities. PHOTO: CONNECT AT CHANGI/FACEBOOK

Announced on Dec 15 last year, the Connect @ Singapore initiative was meant to complement other travel lanes that have already been established, such as reciprocal green lane (RGL) arrangements.

It is distinct from the RGL arrangements, which apply only to selected countries but allow those on essential business here to move about around Singapore more freely.

Singapore suspended its RGL arrangements with Germany, Malaysia and South Korea for three months starting in February, following a resurgence of Covid-19 cases worldwide. Green lane arrangements still exist with some countries like China.

Published : February 09, 2021

By : Kok Yufeng The Straits Times/ANN