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Singapore to launch its first vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei

Border restrictions with Hong Kong and Macao will also be eased, with eligible visitors taking a COVID-19 test on arrival instead of serving a stay-home notice in Singapore.

Singapore to launch its first vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei

Singapore Airlines planes pictured on the tarmac at Changi Airport. (File photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

  • Under the travel lanes, fully vaccinated travellers departing from Germany or Brunei can enter Singapore without serving a stay-home notice from Sep 8
  • These travellers must undergo multiple COVID-19 tests while in Singapore
  • Children under 12, who cannot be vaccinated yet, will not be able to travel under the scheme
  • Travellers from Hong Kong or Macao can apply for an Air Travel Pass to enter Singapore from Aug 26. They will have to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival but will not need to serve a stay-home notice

SINGAPORE: Singapore will launch its first vaccinated travel lanes with Germany and Brunei on Sep 8, announced the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force on Thursday (Aug 19). 

Under the travel lanes, fully vaccinated travellers departing from Germany or Brunei can enter Singapore without serving a stay-home notice. 

However, they must undergo multiple COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – a pre-departure test within 48 hours of the scheduled flight, an on-arrival test at Changi Airport, and post-arrival tests on days three and seven at a designated clinic in Singapore. 

Failing to complete the required tests is a chargeable offence under the Infectious Diseases Act. Those who do not comply may be issued a stay-home notice to be quarantined in a dedicated facility, authorities said. 

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or other vaccines listed under the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use list, such as Sinovac and AstraZeneca. 

This means that children under the age of 12, who cannot be vaccinated yet, will not be able to travel under this scheme.

The vaccinated travel lanes will be open to all travel purposes, whether for leisure, business or to visit family, said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). 

Travellers do not need to follow a controlled itinerary or have a sponsor, but they must have remained in Singapore or their country of departure – Germany or Brunei – in the last 21 consecutive days before they depart for Singapore. 

They also must travel to Singapore on non-stop designated flights, which will only serve travellers on the vaccinated travel lanes, said CAAS in a press release.  

singapore vtl with germany - singapore citizens, permanent residents

The designated flights from Germany will be run by Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa. The current plan is to have seven flights a week or one flight a day from Frankfurt or Munich. 

Currently, people can travel from Singapore to Germany without restrictions on vaccination status and quarantine requirements, CAAS noted. 

With the vaccinated travel lanes, if travellers return to Singapore from Germany on the designated flights, they will not need to serve a stay-home notice here, and will instead be subject to routine testing. 

Singapore Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines will run the designated flights from Brunei to Singapore, and there will be three designated flights a week. 

Under previous travel arrangements, travellers from Brunei were allowed to go about their activities in Singapore without serving a stay-home notice if their on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test results were negative. 

Outside of the vaccinated travel lanes, Singapore will be tightening border control measures for those with travel history to Brunei due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases there, said the Health Ministry in a separate press release.

APPLYING FOR A VACCINATED TRAVEL PASS

Short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will need to apply for a vaccinated travel pass to travel from Germany or Brunei to Singapore. Applications for these passes open on Sep 1. 

As part of the application, travellers will have to pre-pay for their day three and day seven PCR tests, and their vaccination status will be checked for entry into Singapore. 

Short-term visitors who need a visa to enter Singapore must also obtain one. They are advised to do so after their vaccination travel pass is approved and before they depart for Singapore, said the authorities. 

They must also buy travel insurance with a minimum coverage of S$30,000 for COVID-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs before they travel to Singapore. 

singapore vtl with germany - short term visitors, long term pass holders

All visitors must also use the TraceTogether app in Singapore to facilitate contact tracing, said CAAS. 

Fully vaccinated Singapore citizens and permanent residents (PRs) do not need to apply for a vaccination travel pass to enter Singapore under the scheme. 

Those who are vaccinated in Singapore can show their vaccination status on the HealthHub app when checking in at the airport before departure for Singapore. 

For those who were not vaccinated in Singapore, they can present proof of their vaccination to the airline in their country of departure, as well as to Singapore's immigration authorities after arriving at Changi Airport. 

Since Singapore citizens and PRs do not need to apply for a vaccination travel pass to enter Singapore under the scheme, the arrangement will come into effect for them on Sep 8 at 12.01am. 

vtl req

HONG KONG AIR TRAVEL PASS

Short-term visitors with travel history to Hong Kong or Macao in the last 21 consecutive days can now apply for an Air Travel Pass for entry into Singapore from Aug 26. 

Similar to other arrangements with the Air Travel Pass, these visitors will undergo a COVID-19 PCR test upon arrival at Changi Airport, and can go about their activities in Singapore with a negative test result. 

They will no longer need to serve a seven-day stay-home notice with a COVID-19 PCR test before the end of the notice, said CAAS. 

From Aug 20 at 11.59pm, Singapore citizens, PRs and long-term pass holders who have spent the last 21 days in Hong Kong or Macau and are returning to Singapore will take a PCR test upon arrival. 

Similarly, if the result is negative, they will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore, in lieu of a stay-home notice. 

DISCUSSIONS ON AIR TRAVEL BUBBLE DROPPED

As for the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble, Transport Minister S Iswaran said that he and his Hong Kong counterpart have agreed not to pursue further discussions on it given the cities' differing strategies to COVID-19.

The air travel bubble has been on hold since its initial planned launch in November last year, with surges in community infections in first Hong Kong, then Singapore.

"In Singapore, a substantial proportion of our population is fully vaccinated. Hong Kong too is progressively vaccinating its population," Mr Iswaran said at a multi-ministry task force press conference.

"Both sides are focused on keeping our populations safe and minimising the risk of imported cases. But our strategies differ, with Singapore now taking steps towards becoming a COVID-resilient nation.

"Against this backdrop, my Hong Kong counterpart Secretary Edward Yau and I have discussed and concluded that we will not be able to launch or sustain the air travel bubble in its present form."

It was important for Singapore to re-establish general travel with Hong Kong so that people and businesses in both cities, which have close economic and personal ties, can reconnect, added Mr Iswaran.

He also noted that Hong Kong had announced revisions to its border policies earlier in August, including a shorter quarantine period for vaccinated travellers from Singapore.

Countries/regions classified into four categories

Singapore now classifies countries and regions into four categories, each with differentiated border measures.

Category I: Mainland China (excluding Jiangsu province), New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao

- No stay-home notice

- PCR test on arrival

Category II: China's Jiangsu province, Brunei, Australia, Canada and Germany

- Seven-day stay-home notice at place of accommodation

- PCR tests on arrival and on day seven of stay-home notice

Category III: Italy, South Korea, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Japan and Luxembourg

- Unvaccinated travellers to serve 14-day stay-home notice at dedicated facilities

- Vaccinated travellers can apply to serve stay-home notice at place of accommodation

- Pre-departure COVID-19 test within 72 hours

- PCR tests on arrival and on day 14 of stay-home notice

- Antigen-rapid self-swab tests on days three, seven and 11 of stay-home notice

Category IV: All other countries and regions

- 14-day stay-home notice at dedicated facility

- Pre-departure COVID-19 test within 72 hours

- Antigen-rapid test and PCR test on arrival. Another PCR test on day 14 of stay-home notice

- Antigen-rapid self-swab tests on days three, seven and 11 of stay-home notice

- Long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are not allowed to enter Singapore

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border measures

"WE WILL NOT THROW CAUTION TO THE WIND": ISWARAN

Mr Iswaran called the vaccinated travel lanes "a new modality" in Singapore's reopening. 

The implementation of the travel lanes is being done cautiously, starting with two countries with designated flights and safeguards in place, he said. This will allow Singapore to learn from the experience and enhance processes before any further expansion of the scheme. 

Some people may want Singapore to start more vaccinated travel lanes, while others may be more concerned about the risks of reopening borders, said Mr Iswaran. 

“To those who want to do more, I ask for your patience. At this juncture, it is more important that we get it right than that we do it fast. Experience gained from implementing these initial moves safely will enable us to later extend the schemed with confidence,” he said. 

“To Singaporeans who are concerned, I seek your understanding. We are moving in a measured manner, starting small with two countries and an essential set of safeguards. The safety and well-being of our people will always remain our utmost priority. We will not throw caution to the wind."

“Above all, we seek the support of all Singaporeans for these measures. As an open and small economy, our connectivity with the rest of the world is essential if not existential. That is why we need to start reopening."

The vaccinated travel lane is a "significant step forward" towards revitalising international travel, and a "welcome move", said Germany's Ambassador to Singapore Dr Norbert Riedel. 

"The fact that Singapore chose Germany as (its) first partner country to accumulate practical experiences in that regard is seen as an expression of the deep-rooted state of bilateral relations and an expression of mutual trust and confidence," he added. 

"We are confident that those individuals travelling under the vaccinated travel lane scheme will show the necessary self-discipline and self-responsibility by adhering to the necessary testing requirements.

"It is our joint hope that the successful operation of the vaccinated travel lane scheme with Germany will pave the way for its expansion including by broadening the scope of beneficiaries as well as countries.”

Responding to a question about whether the vaccinated travel lanes will be subject to last-minute suspensions in the event of rising COVID-19 cases – like what happened with the planned Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble – Mr Iswaran said these lanes are “materially different” in the way they are developed. 

The travel bubble was a "bilaterally negotiated" process between Singapore and Hong Kong, he said.

“In the case of vaccinated travel lanes, these are actually moves that we are making. It is completely within Singapore’s jurisdiction and control in terms of the measures and the moves.

“In the case of Germany, for example, they have already opened travel for Singaporeans to go into Germany. What we are now doing is reciprocating as it were in part by introducing this vaccinated travel lane, and the measures that we are putting in place are all from Singapore.”

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Source: CNA/hw(cy)

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