Vaccinated travellers to enter Singapore quarantine-free without need for VTLs from April

IN ITS bid to reopen further, Singapore will allow fully vaccinated travellers and non-vaccinated children to enter quarantine-free and without the need to use Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) or apply for related passes, beginning Apr 1.

They will still need to take a pre-departure test within 2 days of leaving for Singapore, but will not have to take an antigen rapid test (ART) after arriving in Singapore.

Transport Minister S Iswaran explained at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force on Thursday (Mar 24) that a negative pre-departure test result is still required as a cautionary measure because coronavirus cases are rising in some parts of the world.

But he added: “We will review this requirement in two to four weeks, by mid-April.”

The simplified regime under the Vaccinated Travel Framework applies to travellers arriving via air or sea checkpoints from countries or regions in the General Travel Category, provided that they had not, in the prior 7 days, been in countries or regions in the Restricted Category. No countries are currently in the Restricted Category.

This is a major step forward to restore air connectivity to the world, to rebuild and reclaim Singapore’s position as an air hub, said Iswaran, noting that passenger traffic at Changi reached 18.2 per cent of pre-Covid levels last week — the highest since Singapore closed its borders in March 2020. As of Mar 22, nearly 585,000 travellers have entered Singapore via VTLs.

Fully vaccinated travellers who are eligible for but have not received a booster shot may stay in Singapore for a maximum of 30 days. Beyond that, they will need to go for a booster shot at any of the vaccination centres in Singapore, at their own expense.

Non-fully vaccinated long-term pass holders and short-term visitors aged 13 and above are generally not allowed to enter Singapore. The exceptions are for long-term pass holders who are medically ineligible for vaccines, or aged 13 to 17; and long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with other valid entry approval, such as for compassionate reasons.

With the move to the Vaccinated Travel Framework, all existing VTLs and unilateral opening arrangements will be retired. Travellers holding a valid Vaccinated Travel Pass or Air Travel Pass under such arrangements may enter Singapore under the VTLs till Apr 1.

The Vaccinated Travel Lane arrangements via sea will also be replaced by the Vaccinated Travel Framework, for all ferry routes, including new ones approved by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. There will no longer be any designated VTL (Sea) ferry services, and the weekly quota for such services will be lifted.

Travellers no longer need to show proof of a hotel booking confirmation and payment for the duration of their stay in Singapore, nor present a return ferry ticket corresponding to the duration of their stay in Singapore.

Entry visa requirements continue to apply for foreign short-term visitors with passports or travel documents issued by visa-required countries or regions, whether they enter via air or sea. Foreign short-term visitors must also purchase travel insurance prior to their travel to Singapore that provides a minimum coverage of S$30,000 for Covid-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs.

“With the discontinuation of designated VTL flights and quotas, airlines can simply submit their plans to the CAAS (Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) and operate flights as they used to pre-Covid,” said Iswaran. Aircrew can also resume normal activities in Singapore or overseas, and wil face similar testing requirements as vaccinated travellers.

Airport workers will no longer be subject to rostered routine testing and will only need to put on surgical masks, except for those in higher risk roles, who will be required to wear a face shield and gloves.

Changi Airport will no be longer segregated into zones, so all travellers can move about freely in the transit areas. CAAS said that it has been working with aviation firms to prepare for the shift to the new Vaccinated Travel Framework, adding: “The airport community is gearing up for higher traffic volumes to ensure smooth and good traveller experience.”

Changi Airport Group is also progressively reopening retail and food and beverage outlets in the transit areas. Said Iswaran: “With these moves, our aim is to welcome airlines back to Singapore, to serve Singapore and the region, raise passenger volumes to at least 50 per cent of pre-Covid levels this year and restore the travel experience that Changi is renowned for.”

To facilitate travel by Singaporeans, permanent residents, work pass holders and other long-term pass holders who may face difficulties obtaining valid pre-departure tests within 2 days before returning to Singapore, the government has introduced remotely supervised ART services by approved licensed providers in Singapore for such travellers arriving from selected countries.

Such remotely-supervised ARTs will be accepted as pre-departure tests, alongside polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, professionally administered ARTs, and ARTs supervised by approved licensed providers in Singapore.

Travellers who wish to use the remotely supervised ART pre-departure test services should book their slots early via the providers’ respective websites and bring along approved ART kits from Singapore for this.

The city-state is also working towards the full resumption of land travel with Malaysia for fully vaccinated persons. Details on the exact border measures for fully vaccinated travellers entering Singapore via the land borders will be announced jointly with Malaysia.

Aviation-related counters saw their prices go up on the announcements, with national carrier Singapore Airlines up 3.86 per cent to S$5.38 and inflight-caterer and ground-handler Sats 4.79 per cent higher at S$4.16 at mid-day trading.