Singapore will expand quarantine-free travel lane arrangements to numerous European nations and Canada and the United States in its most extensive border reopening yet.
The city-state will also change the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme, such as lowering the number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests each tourist must undertake instead of quarantine.
Singapore will begin accepting fully vaccinated visitors from the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, and the United States on October 19.
This is in addition to the current travel agreements with Germany and Brunei, announced in early September.
Singapore transport minister S Iswaran said at a pandemic taskforce press conference on October 9 that allowing quarantine-free travel with the nine nations is a “major step” towards restoring borders.
The minister says that the nine nations — which have previously relaxed restrictions for Singaporeans — accounted for around 10% of pre-pandemic immigration.
“While still a long way from where we were pre-Covid,” Iswaran continues, “this is a big step towards reopening our borders and critical to regaining and restoring our reputation as an international aviation hub with global connections.”
Singapore will also cut the number of Covid-19 tests in half to “help decrease expense and enhance convenience” for VTL passengers. From October 19, VTL passengers will only need to do a pre-departure PCR test within 48 hours before travelling for Singapore, as well as a post-arrival test at the airport.
Travellers would no longer be obliged to submit to PCR testing on their third and seventh days in Singapore.
All arriving short-term tourists and long-term pass holders will, as previously, be required to apply for a travel pass before entering Singapore. Singaporeans and permanent residents in Singapore are free from this requirement. All passengers must also fly on authorised flights, the majority of which will be operated by Singapore Airlines.
The news comes only a day after Singapore and South Korea agreed to allow quarantine-free travel between the two nations beginning in November.
When fully operational, all VTLs, including those with Germany and Brunei, will be able to accommodate up to 3,000 people per day, which is still a small fraction of pre-pandemic arrival levels.
During the press conference, Iswaran stated that his government would “monitor the incidence rates” before raising the arrival quotas.
Iswaran estimates that about 3,100 visitors have visited the city-state through the VTL in the month since its launch with Germany and Brunei.
“We want to re-establish safe two-way quarantine-free travel with additional nations and areas across the world, and we’re working on it.” “When we announced the VTLs with Germany and Brunei, I stressed that we would be cautious and calibrated in our approach, carefully assessing the risk and operational implications — that is why we took the time to closely monitor the implementation of our initial vaccinated travel lanes before designing on these latest moves,” he adds.
The aviation sector has naturally applauded the proposal to reduce border controls drastically.
By Joe Cusmano