Singapore to drop major restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors in April
SHIOK (noun); native slang used in Singapore to express pleasure, happiness and satisfaction.
Forgive us for the language lesson, but there seemed no more fitting word to mark the news that from April 1, Singapore is to drop many of its COVID-19 travel restrictions, including quarantine and arrival tests for fully vaccinated visitors.
The only remaining restriction left in place for the fully vaccinated will be a predeparture test taken within two days of flying to Singapore, though the Ministry of Health suggested this may also be revised within "the coming weeks."
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Other restrictions to be eased include lifting the ban on live music performances, increasing the limit on group gatherings from five to 10 people, and increasing the capacity limits on large events from March 29. Meanwhile, Singaporean residents currently working from home will also be asked to return to the office.
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These developments are sure to be welcomed by many travelers who had been looking for a getaway to the city-state, but have been put off by strict COVID-19 restrictions, whereby inbound passengers still need to test after arrival and self-isolate until a negative test is returned.
Presently only travelers from some countries under the Vaccinated Travel Lanes program — which includes the U.S. — are able to avoid quarantine regulations to gain entry to Singapore, but from next month, the easing of rules will be universally applied to all.
“[Double-jabbed travelers] will not need to apply for entry approvals or take designated VTL transport,” read a statement from Singapore’s Health Ministry, which declared fully vaccinated visitors and non-fully vaccinated children age 12 or under can breeze through arrivals beginning next month.
“We will continue to monitor the local and global COVID-19 situations and consider removing the [predeparture testing] requirement in the coming weeks," the statement read.
The changes will see the retirement of the complicated Vaccinated Travel Lanes system. Under the current requirements visitors to Singapore need to have remained in a VTL country for seven days (reduced from 14 days last month) prior to their arrival.
According to the SIA Group, which owns Singapore Airlines and budget carrier Scoot, travelers currently booked on a VTL flight on or after April 1 may still travel as planned without changes to their booking. Passengers will also be able to transit through Singapore on almost all Singapore Airlines and Scoot flights regardless of their vaccination status from this date -- provided that they meet the entry requirements of their final destination.
“The SIA Group welcomes the latest measures to simplify travel protocols for entry into Singapore. This supports the goal of restoring Singapore’s position as a leading tourist destination and premier air hub," said an SIA spokesperson. "We look forward to welcoming our customers on board our flights, where they will enjoy our warm hospitality and world-class products and services. The SIA Group will continue to closely monitor travel demand, and increase our capacity and services accordingly.”
The news comes as the Singaporean government's attitudes toward the pandemic are softening across all areas. In a speech this week, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the city-state will not only “drastically streamline” COVID-19 rules for travel but also ease the public requirement to wear masks outdoors.
Related: Is it time to rethink COVID-19 travel mandates in the US?
“Earlier, we were cautious because of uncertainty over omicron’s impact,” the prime minister stated. “Now the omicron situation is well under control. Nearly all our cases are domestic, originating within the community. Arrivals from abroad constitute only a very small proportion of cases. We can therefore safely open up our borders.”
While Europe -- including the United Kingdom -- has seemingly moved toward post-pandemic travel at lightning speed of late, for many Asian countries, progress has been slower. However, this does appear to be changing.
Related: Singapore is reopening: Here’s how to get there using points and miles
Just this Monday, Indonesia eased quarantine requirements across the entire country for visitors who can produce a negative PCR test, while earlier this month South Korea and Malaysia also declared an end to quarantine for vaccinated arrivals beginning April 1.
That said, there is no doubt some of the hard-line approaches to border control from these countries have been effective. Last month, Singapore itself reported that it had prevented over 8,000 COVID-19 deaths in the last five months of 2021, keeping its COVID-19 death rate to 15.7 deaths per 100,000 of the population.
But it’s not only tourism that will benefit from the general easing of domestic COVID-19 guidelines. Singapore is one of the world’s most important travel hubs, so it's a real boon for business travelers as well.
Better brush up on your Malay ...