Singapore chalk up six more travel lanes

SINGAPORE, 29 November 2021: Singapore is mapping its travel lane expansion with six more routes due to start up in mid-December

In a statement released 26 November, the Minister for Transport S Iswaran confirmed the VTL scheme would extend to six more countries; Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Turkey and Fiji.

They are in addition to already established VTLs to 21 countries – two in North America, 10 in Europe, three in the Middle East, and six in the Asia-Pacific.   

The latest round of new VTLs starts with Thailand on 14 December, and the others become active on 16 December.

Five of the additional countries have already reopened their borders to vaccinated travellers from Singapore. Fiji will do so from 1 December.

Commenting on the VTLs, the minister said they would “restore two-way quarantine-free travel between Singapore and these countries” and represented a  “further calibrated expansion of the VTL scheme, to reconnect Singapore with the world while managing the public health risk.”

“With the addition of these six new countries, we will also increase the daily quota for our VTLs from 10,000 to 15,000.” “The latest VTL additions “, he explained.

During pre-Covid-19 times, the 27 countries under the VTL scheme contributed about 60% of the daily visitor arrivals at Changi.  The daily VTL quotas represent about one-third of the pre-Covid visitor flows from these countries.

Once the VTL between Singapore and Thailand opens on 14 December, travellers from Thailand and returning residents of Singapore will no longer need to serve a seven-day stay-home notice once they arrive in Singapore.

Instead, they will join visitors from other VTL countries who will need only to show negative results from two Covid-19 tests to be allowed to enter Singapore. The same rule applies to the other five countries from the start update of 16 December.

Initially, the Singapore – Thailand VTL, which is limited to authorised flights from both countries, will facilitate a return of essential business and family reunion travel that was not possible due to quarantine conditions at both ends of the journey. However, the return of leisure travel between the two countries is not likely to happen until the end of December (Christmas and New Year holidays) or even the Chinese New Year holiday season, 28 January to 6 February 2022.

Last Friday, Thailand announced it would ease border requirements, effective 16 December. It will allow arriving travellers under its Test and Go scheme to undergo rapid antigen tests at the airport instead of RT-PCR tests that require 24-hour detention in a hotel pending the test result.

EU: Digital recognition

In related news, Singapore’s minister for transport confirmed the European Commission’s decision to treat digital Covid-19 vaccination and test certificates issued by Singapore as equivalent to those issued by the EU member states.

“We welcome the EC’s decision and note that Singapore is the first Southeast Asian country to have been accorded equivalence status,” he said. “Our agencies are finalising the technical link-up and will issue EU DCC compatible vaccination and test certificates starting 7 December.

Holders of these certificates will be able to use them under the same conditions as holders of an EU DCC certificate.  So this will facilitate travel as well as access to vaccination-differentiated measures or schemes within the EU.

From 7 December 2021, travellers from VTL countries with EU Digital COVID Certificates, even if these are issued in non-VTL countries, will be able to travel to Singapore on the VTLs.

“As we continue to reopen our borders to secure our position as a global business and aviation hub, we will closely monitor the global public health situation, especially for the emergence of any new variants of concern, and impose additional safeguards as necessary.”

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