Singapore opening up to vaccinated travellers

Eleven countries now included in Vaccinated Travel Lane programme that eliminates quarantines with negative tests

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Changi Airport in Singapore. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The city-state of Singapore announced Saturday (9 October) that it was extending its Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme to a total of 11 countries as the country learns to “live with COVID-19”, according to the government.

Following a televised speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore said it would allow vaccinated travellers from the specified countries to skip quarantines if they were vaccinated against COVID-19 and completed a pre-departure test 48 hours before their flight and an on-arrival test and both tests came back nevative. The countries included in the new scheme include: Brunei, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Britain and the US.

The prime minister said Singapore will have to move forward to a “new normal” of living with COVID-19. “How will we know when we get to the new normal? It will be when we can ease off restrictions, have just light [safe management measures] in place, and cases remain stable, perhaps hundreds a day, but not growing,” Lee said. “When our hospitals can go back to business as usual, when we can resume doing the things we used to do and see crowds again without getting worried or feeling strange…It will take us at least three months, and perhaps as long as six months to get to this new norm.”

Because Singapore Airlines has no domestic network, its Changi Airport base is still almost a ghost town in 2021. A lone student waits to say goodbye to a friend in a nearly deserted departure hall. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said the vaccinated travel lanes would restore “two-way quarantine-free travel” between Singapore and the 11 countries in the programme. Up to 3,000 travellers will initially be allowed to enter Singapore daily from all 11 vaccinated travel lane countries, he said. “We will monitor the incidence rate, observe the demand, before deciding on any further increases in capacity.”

Airlines like Etihad and Australia’s Qantas are requiring staff to be vaccinated. (PHOTO: Etihad)

The 11 vaccinated travel lane countries accounted for about 10 percent of pre-pandemic annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, said Iswaran, noting they also rank among Singapore’s top 20 trading partners. “They have significant investments, a strong business presence, and sizeable communities in Singapore. It is, therefore, important that we reconnect with them early,” he said. Establishing the travel lanes is a significant step in the reopening of Singapore’s borders and re-establishing the country’s status as an international aviation hub, he added. “We aim to restore safe two-way quarantine-free travel with more countries and regions from around the world and are engaged in several discussions to that end.”

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