In its largest border reopening to date, Singapore will expand non-quarantine travel lanes provisions to several countries in Europe, as well as Canada and the United States.
The city-state will also change the requirements for the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program, including reducing the number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests each traveler must undergo in lieu of quarantine.
Beginning October 19, Singapore will allow admission of fully vaccinated travelers from the UK, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and the United States.
This is in addition to existing travel arrangements with Germany and Brunei, which were launched in early September.
At a pandemic task force press conference on October 9, Singapore’s Transport Minister S Iswaran said the decision to allow non-quarantine travel with the nine countries was a “milestone.” in the reopening of borders.
The minister notes that the nine countries – which have already eased restrictions on travelers from Singapore – accounted for around 10% of arrivals before the pandemic.
Iswaran adds: “Although it is still a long way from where we were before Covid, this is an important step in reopening our borders, and crucial in reclaiming and rebuilding our status as a global hub. international aviation with global connectivity. ”
To “help cut costs and improve convenience” for travelers on the VTL, Singapore will also cut the number of Covid-19 tests required by half. Starting October 19, VTL travelers will only have to take a pre-departure PCR test – within 48 hours of departure for Singapore – and a post-arrival test at the airport.
Travelers will no longer be required to take PCR tests on the third and seventh days after arriving in Singapore.
As with the previous requirements, all incoming short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will need to apply for a travel pass before entering Singapore. Singaporeans and permanent residents of Singapore are exempt from this requirement. All travelers must also travel on designated flights, most of which will be operated by the national carrier Singapore Airlines.
The announcement comes a day after Singapore and South Korea mutually launched quarantine travel between the two countries starting in November.
Once implemented, all VTLs – including those with Germany and Brunei – are expected to accommodate up to 3,000 passengers per day – still a small fraction of the number of arrivals before the pandemic.
At the press conference, Iswaran said his government would “monitor the incidence rates” before deciding to increase the arrival ceilings.
In a month since VTL’s deployment with Germany and Brunei, Iswaran says about 3,100 travelers have entered the city-state through the program.
“We aim to restore safe, quarantine-free two-way travel with more countries and regions around the world, and are engaged in several discussions to that end. When we announced the VTLs with Germany and Brunei, I emphasized that we would be careful and calibrated in our approach, carefully weighing the risks and operational implications – which is why we took the time to follow up. fter the implementation of our first vaccinated traffic routes. before designing these last movements, ”he adds.
The decision to significantly relax border measures has naturally been welcomed by the airline industry.
IATA Asia-Pacific Regional Vice President Philip Goh called the announcement “a positive and promising development for the aviation and travel industry.”
“We look forward to further such progressive and positive developments that will help restart air transport.
“Singapore’s announcement is very encouraging and a step in the right direction. We hope this will give confidence to other Asia-Pacific states to speed up the reopening of their borders, ”he added.