File photo of Singapore's Changi Airport

SINGAPORE: Travellers from Brunei and New Zealand to visit Singapore starting in September, in a “small, cautious step” by the virus-hit aviation hub to restart air travel, officials said Friday.

The city-state closed its borders in March to tourists and short-term visitors and later implemented a partial lockdown as coronavirus outbreaks swept through dormitories housing hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.

Arrivals from Brunei and New Zealand will be subject to a virus test in lieu of a 14-day quarantine.

Transport minister Ong Ye Kung said the move aims to strike a balance between controlling the spread of the virus and reviving air travel, a key driver of the trade-and tourism-reliant economy.

“All in all, I think this is a small cautious step to start to reopen aviation and resuscitate Changi Airport,” he told reporters on Friday.   

“Remember, as a small open economy, to survive we’ve got to keep our borders open. To earn a living, (we) gotta have connections with the world and to thrive and to prosper, we must be an aviation hub.”

Brunei and New Zealand were chosen as they are small countries and have controlled the virus very well, Ong said, adding the move was unilateral.

The quarantine period has also been cut from 14 to seven days for travellers from low-risk regions including Australia — excluding Victoria state — China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Ong said last week Changi Airport used to move 1,000 aircraft a day but this number had fallen to 150.   – AFP