Monday, 12 Apr 2021

Govt to make it easy to show Covid-19 vaccination proof; vaccine passports being discussed

SINGAPORE – It will be easy and convenient in future for people to show they have been vaccinated against Covid-19, including for those without smartphones.

Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary said the Ministry of Health will, when ready, release details on how individuals can show their valid vaccination status.

He was responding to Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) on whether Singaporeans unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons would be given cards or letters to show to retail staff in the event they are blocked from entering stores in future.

Dr Janil and Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung also told Parliament that government agencies are actively discussing with international counterparts on the possible mutual recognition of vaccination certificates to enable cross-border travel.

On vaccination status, Dr Janil said: “Measures for the unvaccinated are generally based on public health considerations to prevent infection, and would not distinguish between those who choose not to be vaccinated and those who were not medically eligible.

“Other vaccines may be available in the future for those who are not currently medically eligible, and we will continue to evaluate scientific data and review the eligibility criteria accordingly.”

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked about plans for a vaccine passport system to enable travel for business, compassionate and leisure reasons, as well as exemption from quarantine upon returning home.

Dr Janil said progress on cross-border recognition of vaccine certification may take some time.

More data is needed to assess if changes to border measures such as testing and stay-home notice requirements can be made for vaccinated individuals, and if such measures will be affected by the different types of vaccines, he noted.

Dr Janil added that most countries – including Singapore – have only just started vaccinations, and that border measures would also need to account for other factors such as the number of Covid-19 cases and infection control efforts in source countries.

Mr Ong said Singapore is exploring mutual recognition of vaccination certificates – which can be physical or digital, and have to be secure, tamper-proof and verifiable – with several countries and regions, including Australia.

The country will continue to evaluate the Covid-19 situation abroad, and proactively explore the possibility of restoring air travel when it is safe to do so, he added.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (West Coast GRC) had also asked about the impact of an April 2 announcement by Hong Kong to bar Singapore Airlines flights from the Republic till April 16.

The move was prompted by a transit passenger who tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival, and three other transit passengers who breached Hong Kong’s entry rules by taking their pre-departure tests at uncertified clinics.

Mr Ong said these were technical reasons that would not affect talks to re-establish a Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble that was supposed to begin last November but was postponed due to a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

He noted that flights within any proposed travel bubble would carry only passengers from the destination of origin and not those in transit.

“We continue to want to work with Hong Kong to restore this travel bubble,” he said.

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New digital Covid-19 test cert

Separately, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and International Air Transport Association (Iata) also announced on Monday that from May 1, passengers travelling to Singapore would be able to use the Iata travel pass app to share their pre-departure Covid-19 test results with their airline.

The app – now extended to more than 20 airlines – enables passengers to obtain and store polymerase chain reaction test results from accredited laboratories, and use them during check-in and on arrival at immigration checkpoints at Changi Airport.

This follows a successful trial by SIA in March.

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CAAS and Iata said they would work on also including enhancements such as QR code scanning by immigration officers; backend transmission of health credentials to airlines’ and immigration authorities’ systems; and vaccination certificates.

The Iata travel pass will be available for download in the second half of April.

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