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Travellers grapple with extra cost, disrupted plans due to extended COVID-19 stay-home notice period

Travellers grapple with extra cost, disrupted plans due to extended COVID-19 stay-home notice period

The interior of a room at Grand Park Orchard, a hotel that has cancelled upcoming staycations amid government measures to extend stay-home notice periods. (Photo: Grand Park Orchard)

SINGAPORE: Many inbound travellers to Singapore are facing heftier costs for stay-home notice (SHN) dedicated facilities, after authorities announced on Tuesday (May 4) that those from higher-risk areas would have to quarantine for 21 days, up from 14 days.

These travellers will have to pay about S$3,000 for their three-week stay in a dedicated facility, up from the initial S$2,000 for two weeks, according to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The extended quarantine starting Saturday will apply to travellers from all places except Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Those currently serving their stay-home notice and have yet to complete it before this date will also have to serve another seven days at their stay-home notice location.

READ: Singapore to extend stay-home notice to 21 days for travellers from higher-risk places

Travellers that CNA spoke to say the news came as a surprise — throwing plans into disarray while burning a larger hole in their pockets.

“(The cost) was initially S$2,150. I sent ICA an email and they are saying it will cost up to S$1,200 more, which is not a small amount,” said 31-year-old Singaporean Max Lim, whose Vietnamese fiancee is due to arrive in Singapore next week.

The longer quarantine period has also presented a bigger headache for the couple.

They will be forced to miss an in-person appointment to verify their personal documents on May 31, ahead of their Registry of Marriage (ROM) ceremony on June 6.

“So if a video verification isn't approved (for May 31), I'll have to re-apply (for an) ROM date again,” said Mr Lim, adding that he may also have to cancel the venue booked for the event. 

With limited information available online, navigating the changes has been “mentally strenuous” said Mr Lim.

He was also planning to book a post-quarantine surprise for his fiancee. “Luckily, I haven't booked, if not I would need to change it too.”

“WE MIGHT HAVE RECONSIDERED COMING BACK”: TRAVELLER

The news is also a tough pill to swallow for Charlane Yu, a 31-year-old Singaporean currently serving her stay-home notice with her husband. Ms Yu is almost six months pregnant.

“We have been here for four days and it already feels like quite a long time.

“We are in a room without fresh air …. and it’s really hard for me. I feel very breathless and uncomfortable most of the time,” said Ms Yu, who just returned from Germany.

She has requested twice for a room with windows that can be opened, but to no avail – which is why the news of the extended stay-home notice left her distraught.

READ: Singapore returns to tighter COVID-19 measures: What's allowed under the new rules?

The extra costs are another worry, she told CNA.

“We didn’t budget for this extra $1,000 for this trip. We are expecting a new baby so financially, already it’s quite difficult. Suddenly there’s this amount of cash we need to fork out and we feel … it’s a bit unfair,” said Ms Yu.

“If we knew the stay-home notice was going to be 21 days and the cost was higher, we might have reconsidered coming back here.”

"In a sense, I feel (authorities) are doing the right thing, but it's just very sudden," she said.

STAYCATIONS CANCELLED BY HOTELS

With the extension of the stay-home notice period, more hotel rooms are also being earmarked as quarantine facilities for incoming travellers.

The multi-ministry task force for COVID-19 said on Tuesday that government agencies are engaging with hotels to build up sufficient capacity for when the measures are tightened.

But enlisting more rooms for this purpose has meant more cancellations of staycations at various hotels, including the Grand Park Orchard.

In an email seen by CNA, the hotel said it is “assisting” the Government with COVID-19 efforts, and that it would be closed to the public until further notice.

“As such, we are not able to facilitate your upcoming stay at our hotel,” it told guests.

The hotel added that guests can get a partial refund, postpone their stay, or switch to other eligible options using their SingapoRediscover Vouchers on the Klook booking platform.

One guest, who only wanted to be known as Chloe, got the news on Wednesday that her hotel booking for next week has been cancelled.

“I felt disappointed because (it) was something I was really looking forward to since we are unable to travel out of Singapore.

“However, I suppose the cancellation or postponement is also a way to ensure the safety of all guests and I’m grateful that the hotel is allowing us to postpone it without additional charges,” said the civil servant.

Selected floors of the Mandarin Orchard hotel's main tower will also be used as stay-home notice dedicated facilities.

“In view of this arrangement, we will be allowing guests to defer their stay date or cancel their confirmed booking,” said a notice on its website.

In response to CNA's queries on staycation cancellations, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Ministry of National Development (MND) said STB is "implementing a process to allow any vouchers used on affected bookings to be refunded to the user’s digital (SingapoRediscover Vouchers​​​​​​​) account".

More details will be announced soon, added STB and MND.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the Singapore Tourism Board and Ministry of National Development.

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Source: CNA/cl

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