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Singapore to extend vaccinated travel lane scheme to eight more countries, including US, UK, Spain

SINGAPORE: Singapore is extending its vaccinated travel lane scheme to eight more countries, allowing those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine.

From Oct 19, fully vaccinated travellers from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States will be able to enter Singapore under this arrangement, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced on Saturday (Oct 9). 

This expansion is being conducted in a "cautious and step-by-step manner" to help "reclaim and rebuild" Singapore's status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity, said CAAS. 

The latest announcement comes after the "experience and confidence gained" from the first two vaccinated travel lanes with Brunei and Germany, which were launched last month, it added.

It also comes a day after Singapore announced another vaccinated travel lane with South Korea.

Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said the vaccinated travel lanes would restore "two-way quarantine-free travel" between Singapore and the eight newly announced countries. 

He added that the airlines and Changi Airport, together with various government agencies, had gained "valuable experience" through the implementation of the two existing vaccinated travel lanes over the past month.

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According to CAAS, 179 vaccinated travel passes have been issued to travellers from Brunei and 4,497 from Germany for travel to Singapore between Sep 8 and Nov 12 this year, with 1,926 people on such passes from both countries entering the country as of Friday.

There were only two COVID-19 cases among these travellers, both of which were detected through the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests they took upon arrival at Changi Airport. 

Up to 3,000 travellers will initially be allowed to enter Singapore daily from all 11 vaccinated travel lane countries, said Mr Iswaran. 

"We will monitor the incidence rate, observe the demand, before deciding on any further increases in capacity."

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The 11 vaccinated travel lane countries accounted for about 10 per cent of pre-pandemic annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, said Mr Iswaran, noting they also rank among Singapore's top 20 trading partners. 

"They have significant investments, a strong business presence, and sizeable communities in Singapore. It is, therefore, important that we reconnect with them early," he said.

Establishing the travel lanes is a significant step in the reopening of Singapore's borders and reestablishing the country's status as an international aviation hub, he added. 

"We aim to restore safe two-way quarantine-free travel with more countries and regions from around the world, and are engaged in several discussions to that end."

During the press conference, Mr Iswaran was asked if Singapore would consider opening up unilaterally to fully vaccinated travellers from places with low rates of COVID-19.

Mr Iswaran noted that Singapore had already done so for travellers from regions such as Hong Kong and mainland China.

To further open up, the Transport Minister said authorities would have to consider factors such as the public health assessment and operational requirements.

When asked if Singapore would consider easing border restrictions with Johor given the increasing rate of vaccinations across the Causeway, co-chair of the COVID-19 task force Lawrence Wong said he had “no doubt” that Malaysia’s status would be upgraded as the COVID-19 situation in the country improves. 

As for Johor, Mr Wong explained that the “order of risk” is quite different from air travel given the large number of people who travelled between Singapore and Johor via the land crossing before the pandemic. 

Back then, the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints were among the busiest in the world, with about 400,000 travellers on a daily basis. 

“We have to look at this differently and consider it separately,” said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.

He added that the Singapore authorities are in discussions with their Malaysian counterparts on both land and air travel between the two countries.

NUMBER OF PCR TESTS REDUCED

From Oct 19, the number of PCR tests will be reduced from four to two for those entering Singapore under vaccinated travel lanes.

These travellers will still be required to take a PCR test within 48 hours of their departure to Singapore, and take another test upon arriving at Changi Airport, self-isolating until they get a negative test result.

They will no longer need to undergo PCR tests on the third and seventh day after arrival. 

"The MOH’s (Ministry of Health) public health assessment is that the pre-departure test and on-arrival test provide sufficient safeguards for detecting and isolating imported COVID-19 cases," said CAAS. 

The removal of the PCR tests on the third and seventh days will help make travelling under the vaccinated travel lanes cheaper and more convenient, it added. 

For those travelling from Brunei or Germany, these changes will be applicable to those entering on or after Oct 19. 

Travellers who have already paid for COVID-19 PCR tests on the third and seventh days after arrival, but will only enter Singapore on or after Oct 19 will be refunded for those test charges.

OTHER REQUIREMENTS 

Travellers will need to have remained in one or more of the countries under the vaccinated travel lanes - including Singapore - for 14 consecutive days prior to departure to Singapore. 

Those travelling to Singapore under the lanes will need to be fully vaccinated, and will be considered as such two weeks after getting at least two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty, Moderna or other vaccines on the World Health Organisation's Emergency Use Listing. 

These travellers will be able to present vaccination certificates issued in any of the vaccinated travel lane countries or Singapore, regardless of which country under the travel lanes they depart from. 

They must travel into the country on designated flights, and can transit via another vaccinated travel lane country to take a designated flight into the Singapore. 

Such travellers who are transferring or transiting through Singapore will be allowed to travel on the designated vaccinated travel lane flights, subject to the above requirements. 

Short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will need to apply for a vaccinated travel pass to enter Singapore under the travel lanes, but fully vaccinated Singapore citizens and permanent residents will not. 

There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel and no requirement for a controlled itinerary or sponsor under these arrangements, said CAAS. 

Applications for vaccinated travel passes for those travelling from the eight newly-announced countries will begin on Oct 12 at 10am (Singapore time), for entry into Singapore from Oct 19. 

For South Korea, applications for the passes will begin on Nov 8 at 10am (Singapore time), for entry into Singapore from Nov 15. 

Short-term visitors who require a visa for travel into Singapore are advised to do so after receiving approval for their vaccinated travel pass and before departure. 

They should also purchase travel insurance  with a minimum coverage of S$30,000 for COVID-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs, prior to travel, and must use the TraceTogether app while in Singapore for contact tracing.

"To safeguard public health in Singapore, all travellers entering Singapore must comply with the prevailing health and safe distancing measures in Singapore," said the CAAS.

"As the global COVID-19 situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures with the appropriate safeguards to ensure public health and safety," it added. 

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Source: CNA/az(aj)

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