Only about 2 per cent of its 98 million population are vaccinated.
“We have also discussed in the next few months, hopefully by the end of the year, how we can gradually and safely liberalize particularly on business travel, and perhaps on selected tourist sites.”
“But the key thing first is Vietnam needs some time to step up its vaccination program – so we will wait for them to be ready.”
In the meantime, Dr Balakrishnan said both countries are engaged at the staff level to work on a mutual recognition of vaccine certificates and testing results to build confidence towards border reopening.
In new rules announced on Wednesday, travelers from Vietnam are subject to a 14-day quarantine in Singapore at dedicated facilities beginning on June 28, with a mandatory antigen rapid test on the third, seventh and eleventh day after arrival. Previously, they would have to undergo a 21-day stay-home notice.
Vietnam has suspended the entry of all foreigners except diplomats, investors, experts and skilled workers.
Dr Balakrishnan said Vietnam has also expressed interest in Singapore technology like breathalyzer test kits, adding that the Republic will help source and evaluate.
On the Myanmar crisis, he said both governments reiterated calls for violence to cease and for dialogue to begin. “Vietnam and Singapore stand ready to do what we can without interfering.”
Asean leaders in April agreed on a five-point consensus at a special summit in Jakarta, calling for Myanmar to stop violence and start dialogue with its opponents in a process that will be facilitated by a special Asean envoy, aided by the Asean secretary-general.
Dr Balakrishnan has acknowledged the slow progress so far, saying at a Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting earlier this month that there had been “no real sign of meaningful political dialogue and negotiation”.
The conflict, which started after the army seized power on Feb 1 and removed Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, has left at least 870 people dead, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.
Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore and Vietnam share the same position that Asean centrality and unity must be maintained and that “it is even more important for Asean rules to be accentuated (in view of) the regional developments, global developments, superpower rivalry”.