Singapore And China Introduce ‘Fast Pass’ To Make Travel Easier In The Covid Era (But Still Hard!)

There are countries that have gotten past their peak of COVID-19 and are cautiously opening up, like most of Europe. There are countries that are working to crush the virus completely, and are reticent to open up, like Australia and New Zealand. And there are countries that aren’t imposing restrictions at all like Serbia and starting in a couple of weeks, the Maldives.

Countries that see not just surviving the virus but eradicating it completely as their goal are taking baby steps towards opening, but those are cumbersome, like Cambodia’s requirement that tourists quarantine for 14 days if anyone on their flight tests positive for the virus, and that tourists have to pre-pay their own cremation ‘just in case’.

Australia and New Zealand are talking about a “travel bubble” – opening to each other, only, although Australia has also made mention of potentially opening to South Korea, China, and Japan as a further step.

In the spirit of understanding just how countries that are working to ‘crush’ the virus are approaching opening, and the hoops they’re requiring people to go through, I was fascinated by the “fast lane” jointly announced by Singapore and China to provide for essential business and official travel without a 14 day quarantine.

  • This is available between Singapore and six regions in China (Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Zhejiang).

  • The traveler’s company or government agency applies for a SafeTravel Pass at least 5 business days (but not more than 20 business days) prior to departure. An approval letter is provided within 3 business days, and that allows those who need a visa to apply for one. The approval requires health and travel history declarations, and those using the pass must submit a negative COVID-19 test 1-2 days prior to travel.

  • There’s additional COVID testing on arrival, and restrictions on movement during the 14 days in country (including restrictions on use of public transit). And it requires submitting to contact tracing via mobile app.

And they call this Fast Lane! Calling is a “Fast Lane” is like calling a dump truck a sports car.

Singapore had largely kept the virus under control through the beginning of April, where it started to spread through guest worker housing. They are still seeing hundreds of confirmed cases daily. Guest worker housing has been a problem elsewhere for instance Qatar has per capita confirmed infections four times that of the United States.

Though the virus originated in China, the Chinese government has touted its ability to stamp it out completely. Indeed, this success will be a linchpin of President Xi’s argument for seeking another term. However it spreads silently and pops up even where people believe it’s eradicated. Parts of Beijing are back under lockdown after around 50 cases were confirmed, believed to be related to a local food market. China only counts positive tests with symptoms as Covid cases, though, and there are at least 40 others who tested positive without symptoms.

Even South Korea, after a period of single digit confirmed cases, is back to about 50 daily positive tests.

Singapore and China are beginning to open up – a little. Singapore is allowing a limited amount of transit via Changi airport. And China sees a need not to do this with every passenger. But so far restrictions are relaxing very slowly in Asia.

(HT: David H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. China will pressure some countries for a fast reopen, most notably those lapdog/lickspittle/vassal states such as Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand.
    Thailand is a de facto province of China; the anti-western rhetoric there is intensifying, mostly among the clans running the military government and big business.

  2. I hate America. Will probably move to China/Korea/Singapore or Aus/NZ one of these days. I speak the languages, my employer has offices there, and there’s just so much more GOOD culture in those countries.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised by China granting Singapore “fast track” status, given the hundreds of cases diagnosed daily in the foreign worker dorms. That population is under a pretty strict quarantine, so there’s almost no community transmission, but still the Chinese health officials had to look beneath the surface statistics.

    Doing a test both prior to departure and after arrival seems overkill, particularly since those are both at the traveller’s cost. But other than that, it looks to me like the future of international travel, at least until there is a vaccine…

  4. LOL – the US is one of the most difficult countries to give up citizenship- I had a friend who did it a couple of years back, and it took him 9 months and cost him $570K- all because he happened to be born in the States and his parents got him a US passport before they left when he was 6 months old…

    It’s like the Hotel California- you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave!

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