Earlier on September 8, Singapore rolled out its first Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) with Brunei and Germany.
The scheme basically allows fully-vaccinated travellers to enter Singapore without the need for quarantine.
However, it was later announced that children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, would be allowed to travel via such lanes as well.
From October 19, Singapore has further expanded its VTL to include eight other countries: Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Another country, South Korea, will be included in the VTL list of countries on November 15.
In a press conference, Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said the introduction of the vaccinated travel lanes was a significant step in the reopening of Singapore’s borders, adding that it is “crucial to reclaiming and rebuilding our status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity”.
He stressed that reconnecting with the 11 VTL countries is important, as they accounted for about 10 per cent of pre-pandemic annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport and also ranked among Singapore’s top 20 trading partners.
“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.”
In a separate interview with Bloomberg, Minister Iswaran said that Singapore is keen to work with regional neighbours such as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, on similar travel lanes.
How does the VTLs work?
Under the VTL scheme, passengers will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus before they depart and on arrival.
The VTLs are open to all travel purposes, whether for leisure, business or to visit family.
However, there are a number of conditions that individuals must fulfil first before they can travel under VTL.
Travelers must be fully-vaccinated (received at least two jabs of a COVID-19 vaccine), and have vaccination certificates that can be digitally verified.
Travelers must also arrive in Singapore on a designated VTL flight. The list of eligible flights is regularly updated, and you can find a full list here.
Short-term visitors and long-term pass holders would need to apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass to enter Singapore under the VTL. However, fully-vaccinated Singapore citizens and permanent residents will be able to automatically tap the VTL without applying for the pass.
From October 19, VTL travelers must have remained in one or more of the VTL countries in the last 14 consecutive days prior to departure to Singapore.
If the traveller has been in Singapore within those last 14 days, his/her stay in Singapore can be counted towards fulfilling this 14-day travel history requirement.
Testing requirements for travellers to Singapore under the VTL has been reduced to just a pre-departure test 48 hours before their flight and an on-arrival test.
Travelers will no longer have to take Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests on day three and day seven after their arrival in Singapore.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) reasoned that the Health Ministry’s public health assessment revealed that pre-departure test and on-arrival test provide sufficient safeguards for detecting and isolating imported Covid-19 cases.
Failure 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, according to the authorities.
Remember to exercise caution
As the international travel measures eases with the VTL, there has been a flurry of flight bookings among travel-starved Singaporeans.
This might be an encouraging sign for the heavily-battered travel industry, but it’s important to note that VTLs are not a silver bullet solution.
After all, the cap of allowing just 3,000 travellers to come in under the VTLs daily will limit the impact of the scheme.
As to whether the VTLs will lead to an increased community transmission, it probably will. However, at the rate of community cases Singapore is seeing now, the risk of infected travelers pose very little impact.
The more important thing is that all travelers are already fully vaccinated. We do not want additional unvaccinated people coming into the country, and potentially adding more strain to the healthcare system.
That said, it’s important to exercise great caution when traveling overseas.
Given the different requirements of each country, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority advises those travelling out of Singapore to vaccinated travel lane regions to “check the prevailing entry requirements of the destination, and to exercise care and caution, especially when travelling with children.”
To keep themselves even safer, travellers should also keep abreast of local news and updates, and keep away from places where there is a high infection rate.
It’s also good to avoid crowded places, and remember to maintain good personal hygiene at all times.
Additionally, travelers should consider getting a comprehensive travel insurance plan to cover trip cancellation and overseas medical expenses as a result of Covid-19.
Featured Image Credit: Roslan Rahman, AFP via Getty Images