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Singapore tightens rules for VTL travellers, requiring them to take COVID-19 tests for 7 days on arrival

Travel restrictions have also been extended to more countries as Singapore steps up measures against Omicron.

Singapore tightens rules for VTL travellers, requiring them to take COVID-19 tests for 7 days on arrival

Travellers are seen using the automated travel lanes at Changi Airport, on Oct 29, 2021. (Photo: Ministry of Home Affairs)

SINGAPORE: All travellers entering Singapore on vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) will soon have to take COVID-19 tests daily for seven days on arrival as the country tightens measures against the Omicron variant.

This means there will be additional swabs on top of the current requirement for a pre-departure test, an on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, as well as supervised antigen rapid tests (ARTs) on day 3 and day 7 of their visit.

The new testing requirement will take effect on Dec 6, 11.59pm, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday (Dec 3).

It will remain in place for four weeks "in the first instance" until 11.59pm on Jan 2, 2022, the ministry added.

The additional tests - on days 2, 4, 5 and 6 - are self-administered and will be done using ARTs. Travellers must submit their results online using a link that will be sent to them via their declared contact details.

On days 3 and 7, the ARTs will be done in a supervised setting at a Combined Test Centre or Quick Test Centre.

"Day 3 is the median incubation period, and day 7 is the day of exit from this testing protocol," said MOH. 

"During this seven-day period, other than on days when they go out for their supervised tests, these travellers must test negative on their self-administered ART before going out for activities on that day."

This new testing regime will also apply to travellers arriving from Malaysia using the land VTL from 11.59pm next Monday. These travellers already have to take a pre-departure test and on-arrival ART.

ANTIGEN RAPID TESTS EFFECTIVE IN DETECTING OMICRON

The new testing regime comes amid concerns over the new Omicron variant.

Singapore detected its first two cases earlier this week, when two imported cases tested "preliminarily positive" for the variant. The National Public Health Laboratory is conducting whole-genome sequencing to confirm the Omicron variant.

"We have also been closely monitoring studies on the sensitivity of ARTs to the Omicron variant," said MOH. 

"Preliminary validation by the manufacturers show that ARTs remain effective in detecting COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant, and laboratories are doing further biochemical tests to confirm these results," it added.

"These initial results lend confidence that ARTs remain effective as a method of detecting COVID-19, including Omicron cases."

BORDERS TIGHTENED

The Health Ministry also announced on Friday that Singapore will extend travel restrictions to more countries that have seen a spike in Omicron cases.

From 11.59pm on Dec 4, all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to Ghana, Malawi and Nigeria within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit in Singapore.

“This restriction will apply to those who have obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore,” said MOH.

“We will apply these restrictions for four weeks in the first instance, after which we will review and extend them if necessary.”

Seven countries – Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and Poland – will be placed in Category 3 from 11.59pm on Dec 6.

Travellers from Category 3 countries have to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test within two days before departure for Singapore.

They will be tested on arrival and are required to do a 10-day stay-home notice at a declared place of accommodation. A PCR test will be done before the end of the stay-home notice.

“Travellers are advised to visit the website to check the latest border measures for the associated country or region before entering Singapore, and be prepared to be subjected to the prevailing border measures upon entry into Singapore,” added MOH.

NO EVIDENCE OMICRON SYMPTOMS MORE SEVERE

There is currently no evidence to suggest that symptoms associated with the Omicron variant are different or more severe than those of other variants, or that current vaccines and therapeutics would be ineffective against the new variant, said MOH.

It noted that more data and further studies are needed.

The ministry said it expects to see more Omicron cases being reported globally in the coming weeks.

"Should the Omicron variant be more transmissible than Delta and become the globally dominant variant over time, it is a matter of time before it establishes itself in Singapore," it added. 

"But the additional measures will help to buy time to learn more about dealing with Omicron, and to continue with our booster programme to strengthen our collective resilience for better protection against this new variant."

MOH said it might need to introduce or adjust its measures "at short notice" in response to the "fluid" situation.

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Source: CNA/mi(gs)

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