Airlines responsible for ensuring returning Singaporeans, PRs have negative COVID-19 tests: CAAS

Airlines responsible for ensuring returning Singaporeans, PRs have negative COVID-19 tests: CAAS

An arriving passenger walks to the taxi area at Changi International Airport, Singapore
An arriving passenger walks to the taxi queue area at Singapore Changi Airport on Sep 11, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Airlines will be responsible for ensuring that returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) have a valid negative COVID-19 test, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). 

All airlines flying into Changi Airport have been informed of the new requirement, said CAAS airport operations regulation and aviation security director Margaret Tan, responding to queries from CNA.

Airlines must check that all passengers - including returning Singapore citizens and PRs - have a valid negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result certificate before allowing them to board a flight to Singapore, said Ms Tan.

These certificates should be issued by an internationally accredited or recognised laboratory, clinic or medical facility specified by Singapore’s Ministry of Health, she added.

"Airlines must not allow a passenger to board the flight to Singapore if that passenger fails to produce the result of the required PCR test or if the result of that PCR test is positive. They will be responsible to carry a person who is denied entry into Singapore back to the point of departure,” she said.

READ: Returning Singaporeans, PRs will need to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before departure

This comes after the Ministry of Health announced last week that Singaporeans and PRs are now required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours before departing for Singapore

Excluded are those who have stayed in lower-risk countries and regions - comprising Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau - in the last 21 days before departure to Singapore. 

Previously only long-term pass holders and short-term pass visitors entering Singapore were required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test. 

Those who arrive in Singapore without a valid negative test result may be denied entry, MOH said, adding that PRs and long-term pass holders who fail to comply may also have their permit or pass cancelled.

According to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's (ICA) SafeTravel website, those travelling by plane or by boat will have to present their test result at the air and sea checkpoints upon arrival in Singapore.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) said passengers will be required to show its service agents a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate. 

“This test must have been taken within 72 hours of their first point of embarkation,” said a spokesperson for the national carrier. 

“Passengers who are unable to produce a valid certificate will not be permitted to board the flight.”

However, those who are unable to get COVID-19 tests in time will be allowed to book another flight on SIA without incurring further penalties. 

“Complimentary rebooking is available for passengers who are unable to meet the requirements in time, subject to seat availability,” said the SIA spokesperson. 

READ: Changi Airport to segregate workers based on COVID-19 exposure risk

COULD A SINGAPORE CITIZEN BE BARRED FROM ENTRY?

While the onus is on people to ensure they have the necessary negative test and airlines to make sure no-one boards a flight to Singapore without one, it is unclear what would happen if a citizen arrived without that necessary documentation.

In response to questions on this issue, ICA directed CNA to a page on its website on requirements for citizens and PRs travelling to Singapore, which highlights the need for the negative test.

However, Singapore Management University associate professor of law Eugene Tan said that if a citizen did arrive at a Singapore immigration without the requisite negative test, there may be no legal basis for ICA to deny the citizen entry so long as the person has valid travel documents.

If a Singapore citizen were to be rejected entry into the country on the basis of not possessing a negative COVID-19 test, a “legitimate argument” could be made that the individual’s rights under Article 13(1) of the Singapore Constitution - which states that no Singapore citizen shall be "banished or excluded" from the country - had been breached, said Assoc Prof Tan. 

He noted that it is more likely that a Singaporean without the requisite negative COVID-19 test would not be able to board the aircraft or sea vessel in the first place. 

“Therefore, the situation of the citizen being excluded from Singapore does not arise in such a situation,” he said. 

READ: Singapore must test 'faster, more liberally and extensively'; DIY tests soon available over the counter, says PM Lee

Assoc Prof Tan believes it is a “moot legal question” as to whether a pre-departure COVID-19 test is “so unreasonable or unlawful such that it effectively restricts and derogates" from a citizen's constitutional right.

“In my view, no, given the global pandemic and the need to protect passengers travelling to Singapore and the public health imperative to keep people in Singapore safe,” he said.

Source: CNA/az

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