Dozens of Chinese nationals gathered outside their embassy in Singapore on Tuesday in frustration over new rules requiring them to get tested for Covid-19 before they can board their upcoming flights home, something Singapore doesn’t generally offer to those without symptoms.
“No hospital in Singapore will perform a test for me,” said a 28-year-old warehouse manager who gave his surname as Wang. He’s scheduled to fly to the western city of Chongqing at the end of the month. “Booking a flight is very tough now and I don’t want to miss my flight.”
The crowd surrounded flustered embassy officials and grew raucous, even as a police vehicle arrived. The new requirements from China, instituted after dozens of passengers from Singapore tested positive in virus tests after landing there, highlights the fragility of tentative travel arrangements established by countries to boost economic activity and help the ailing aviation industry.
It’s also a blow to Singapore’s efforts to kick start international travel amid the pandemic, fueled by its reliance on the aviation sector as an international hub. The city-state was one of the first to establish a corridor with the world’s second-biggest economy, and is negotiating arrangements with other major trade partners like Japan.
Tianjin’s municipal health commission said all the 12 cases found on the Scoot flight were Chinese construction workers.
The detection of cases came even as Singaporean authorities conducted a mass testing campaign to weed out symptom-free migrant worker carriers. New infections have recently surfaced in at least one of the dormitories, though reported cases among the rest of the population hover close to zero.
The frustrated Chinese nationals gathered outside the embassy on Tuesday said that they could not get a virus test from any Singapore medical facility without displaying symptoms. Those interviewed were not traveling via the green lane and were mostly lower-wage workers prepared to undergo two weeks of quarantine upon reaching home.
Under the new rules, they won’t be able to board their flights without a negative test result.
Singapore’s health ministry said late Tuesday on its website that travelers could seek assistance in light of the new rules from China. Still, it reiterated its strategy focused on “diagnostic testing and active case finding” and that pre-departure testing is reserved for those using the green lane.
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