According to official data released today, Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) cleared more cargo and low-value goods in 2020 even as traveller numbers declined significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In 2020, the ICA cleared over 42 million travellers and 11.7 million consignments, containers and parcels. This is about 175 million fewer travellers and 400,000 more cargoes compared to 2019," an official statement read.
It also said that the Circuit Breaker measures along with travel restrictions provided impetus for consumers to turn towards e-commerce and online shopping for their daily essentials, leisure, and entertainment needs, causing the surge in low-value goods volume.
ICA said it "expanded beyond its core responsibilities" last year to support the national response to COVID-19, including enforcement of the stay-home notice regime.
In all, ICA issued more than 280,000 stay-home notices last year. At the peak in April, it monitored more than 40,000 people placed under stay-home notice.
About 21.2 million low-value goods went through air cargo checkpoints last year, over double the amount cleared in 2019.
The decline in traveller volume resulted in a sharp fall in the number of immigration offenders as well as harbourers and employers of immigration offenders last year. Offences related to marriages of convenience also fell in 2020, said the authority.
There was a fall in contraband cases overall, which was attributed to the travel restrictions worldwide resulting in a drop in inbound travellers and conveyances passing through the checkpoints.
But contraband cases detected through low-value goods also increased more than five-fold. There were 4,000 such cases last year, compared with 610 in 2019. Examples of contraband detected include sexual enhancement drugs, drug paraphernalia and airsoft guns.
ICA added that it was on track with the implementation of its previously announced new clearance concept from 2022, which aims to allow Singapore residents to clear immigration without needing to present a passport.