Singapore Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on air travel, Covid outbreak

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said “open and free” air travel in Asia remains unlikely in the near term as parts of the region battle with an increase in Covid-19 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 many countries in the region are still not high enough. So I don’t think we will be able to see open and free travel in the region, in particular, any time soon,” said the minister who also co-chairs Singapore’s coronavirus task force.

Singapore is a Southeast Asian city-state with no domestic air travel market. International travel came to a sudden halt in the past year due to the pandemic, and that’s hurt Singapore’s aviation and tourism sectors — two major contributors to economic growth.  

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.

Lawrence Wong

Finance Minister, Singapore

Wong said the Singapore government continues to talk with its counterparts in the region about setting up “safe travel lanes.” He didn’t name the places Singapore is in talks.

“Perhaps amongst the countries with low and stable infections, we may have some travel arrangements. Perhaps for vaccinated travelers, there may be some benefits in terms of shorter 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 added.

Singapore’s Covid situation

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