TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Singaporean government has reportedly approached Taiwanese authorities about negotiating for a travel bubble agreement intended to boost business and commercial activities in the city-state.
Up Media disclosed on Monday (Nov. 30) that the Singaporean Representative to Taiwan, Yip Wei Kiat (葉偉傑), has recently sent letters to Taiwan’s Health Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and Transportation Ministry and presented plans for travel bubble negotiations between the two countries. Yip, when meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in October, also mentioned the same issue in the hopes of gaining support from her and other Taiwanese officials, the report said.
However, Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊仁祥), spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), has hinted the rumored proposal would not likely happen soon. The global pandemic has escalated recently and with the winter drawing near, the CECC is adopting a more “prudent and conservative” attitude when it comes to lifting travel restrictions, he said.
Chuang added that business travelers from most countries are now allowed to visit Taiwan if they comply with the CECC’s requirements, implying that travel bubbles are not the government’s top priority. Taiwan has reported approximately 60 new coronavirus cases in the past week, all of which were imported.
The increased cases prompted the CECC to ban the entry of Indonesian migrant workers for two weeks. It also introduced slightly stricter disease prevention measures starting Tuesday (Dec. 1).
Singapore reached a deal for a travel bubble with Hong Kong in November, but the starting date has now been postponed due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the China-ruled territory. In the meantime, Taiwan so far has the virus outbreak under control, plus it has been one of the main exporters of tourists, hence the Singaporean authorities eagerly negotiating with Taiwan since late October.
According to the report, the proposal Yip presented to Taiwanese officials is similar to the travel bubble program Singapore has agreed to with Hong Kong. Under their agreement, both Hong Kong and Singapore will allow the entry of 1,000 travelers from one another on a daily basis.
To be eligible for travel under the program, both Hongkongers and Singaporeans must remain locally for more than two weeks before departure and get tested with negative results within three days of flying. After landing, travelers will be exempt from a 14-day quarantine and can travel freely.
Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), Taiwan's minister of transportation and communications, whose office also governs the country’s tourism affairs, earlier expressed welcomeness to negotiating a travel bubble with Singapore. He said in November that Singapore had been “very active” in discussions.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said on Tuesday that the policy regarding travel restrictions is decided by the CECC. The ministry will monitor the virus outbreak in Singapore and continue discussing the issue with Singaporean authorities, she added, without confirming the letters.