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Singapore to launch vaccinated travel lanes with India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia

The vaccinated travel lane scheme will also be extended to Qatar and UAE. 

Singapore to launch vaccinated travel lanes with India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia

Travelers scanning their passports at the automated counters at immigration before entering Singapore. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: Singapore will extend its vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme to more countries starting from Nov 29, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Monday (Nov 15).

The country intends to launch VTLs with India and Indonesia from Nov 29, and with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Dec 6.

Speaking at the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Monday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said Singapore and India have been discussing the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.

Since Nov 12, India has started recognising vaccination certificates issued by Singapore.

“This means that fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore entering India will no longer need to undergo post-arrival tests home quarantine, they will just need to self monitor for 14 days upon arrival,” said Mr Iswaran.

MOH, added Mr Iswaran, has also updated its public health assessment and will upgrade India to Category 2 from Nov 19.

"We are in discussions on the resumption of scheduled commercial passenger services (with India). As today the only flights from Singapore allowed to carry passengers to India are government charter relief flights under the Vande Bharat mission."

He added that discussions with India are "progressing well", and there is an aim to resume two daily VTL flights each from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai by Nov 29. "The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will provide more details once finalised."

UNILATERAL VTL WITH INDONESIA

As for the upcoming VTL with Indonesia, Mr Iswaran said it will be a unilateral vaccination travel lane for now.

“Indonesia remains closed to general travel, but has started to open its borders. Since Oct 14, Indonesia has unilaterally reopened its borders to allow visitors from 19 countries,” said Mr Iswaran. “We hope that Indonesia will likewise soon reopen its borders to travellers from Singapore.”

For a start, Mr Iswaran said, there will be two daily designated services between Singapore and Jakarta. This will progressively be increased to four.

Applications for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will start on Nov 22 for travellers from India and Indonesia, while travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE will be able to apply from Nov 29.

Returning Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who are fully vaccinated will not need to apply if they are travelling via the VTL.

“Travellers intending to travel from Singapore to these countries/regions are advised to check the prevailing entry requirements of the destination,” said MOH in a release on Monday.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that Singapore will continue to monitor the situation in all parts of the world closely, and to ensure that travel does not impose a heavy burden on the country’s healthcare system.

Noted rising infections in Europe, Mr Ong said overall infection rates in various countries including in Europe are comparable to Singapore.

In particular, he highlighted the Netherlands - one of Singapore’s VTL partners - which is currently experiencing infection rates that are “slightly higher” than Singapore's and is also on an upward trajectory.

Despite recent social restrictions announced by the Dutch government, Mr Ong said the task force did not think it was “necessary” to rescind the VTL or reduce the VTL quotas as yet.

“Import cases or imported cases are still a very small fraction of total community cases and do not significantly affect local transmissions,” he said.

“In addition, there is a quota of only six flights a week from the Netherlands and most importantly, VTL travellers are all fully vaccinated and tested before departure and upon arrival.”

“Hence, it is very unlikely that continuing with a VTL will increase the burden on our hospital system and our healthcare system.”

To date, Singapore has launched 13 VTLs including Australia, Canada and Germany. The country announced previously that it will be launching VTLs with Malaysia, Finland, and Sweden from Nov 29.

As of Nov 14, 24,070 VTL travellers have entered Singapore via the VTL, said CAAS. They include short-term visitors, long-term pass holders as well as Singaporeans and permanent residents. 

Travellers under the VTLs are not subject to stay-home notice on arrival. Instead, they will be required to produce a negative pre-departure test taken within two days prior to departure and undergo an on-arrival PCR test.

In a separate release, the CAAS said the step-by-step extension of the VTL allows it to “revive air travel safely without compromising public health”.

It added that it will also help to “reclaim and rebuild” Singapore’s status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity.

MOH added that Chile, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka will also be placed in Category 2 from Nov 19.

Watch the full news conference, including the Q&A session with journalists:

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Source: CNA/vl(rw)

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