- Quarantine-free travel between Australia and Singapore from November 8
- Australia added to list of 'Vaccinated Travel Lane' countries
- Covid PCR tests needed pre-departure and on arrival
Australia and Singapore will begin quarantine-free travel from Monday November 8, after the two counties signed an agreement to add Australia to the 'Vaccinated Travel Lane' program which now extends to over a dozen nations.
Singapore's Transport Minister S Iswaran said Australia's inclusion in the VTL scheme reflected the country's strong economic ties to Singapore, as well as the economic imperative "that we persevere with our efforts to reopen our borders" to remain a hub for international aviation and business.
However, unlike most VTL countries, Singaporeans will in the short term be unable to enter Australia as visitors – although a reciprocal arrangement for student and business pass holders from Singapore is expected to be in place before the end of November.
"We also expect student and business pass holders from Singapore to be able to enter Australia, after Australia has finalised the arrangement for their entry," noted the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. "Other travellers from Singapore would not be able to travel to Australia until a later stage."
The CAAS said that Australia was among the top ten markets for annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, accounting for about 4% of total arrivals in 2019; there are more than 50,000 Singaporeans living in Australia, while over 25,000 Australians live in Singapore, it noted.
Sydney and Melbourne, both of which will scrap quarantine requirements from November 1, will be the first ports of call for passengers on direct flights operated by Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
It remains to be seen if Qantas will bring forward the restart of its Sydney-Singapore and Melbourne-Singapore, flight currently slated for November 22-23.
Singapore Airlines, which has continued flying both routes, needs only to open up all seats for bookings; the Star Alliance member has also announced its Airbus A380 will return to Sydney with daily flights from December 1.
The carrier’s Regional Vice President Louis Arul said the Australia-Singapore VTL "comes at an opportune time, allowing customers to plan for their reunions with family and loved ones in the lead up to Christmas or even a well-deserved holiday in Singapore."
Over 80% of Singapore's 5.45 million population has been fully vaccinated, with booster shots now being distributed. While the city-state has been reporting more than 3,000 daily infections in recent weeks, most of those are mild or asymptomatic.
How the Australia-Singapore VTL will work
Quarantine-free passage from Australia to Singapore will be limited to fully-vaccinated travellers, who will need to provide proof of vaccination in the form of a physical or digital vaccination certificate.
This is covered by the government-issued international vaccination certificates but at a later date should also encompass the Travel Pass app being rolled out by Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
VTL travellers will also have to return a negative result from three Covid-19 PCR tests:
- the first test must be taken within 48 hours of the departure of their flight from Australia to Singapore
- a second test is taken on arrival at Singapore's Changi Airport, and travellers must self-isolate until they get the result (this usually takes a matter of hours)
- a third test taken within 72 hours of the departure of their flight back to Australia
As each Covid-19 PCR test can cost around $150, this will add some $450 to the cost of each person's trip. Children aged two years and below "in the calendar year" are not required to undergo those tests.
Children aged 12 years and under who are not vaccinated are permitted as VTL passengers, provided they are accompanied by a traveller who meets the scheme's requirements.
Travellers headed from Australia to Singapore under the VTL scheme must be booked onto a "designated VTL flight."
Singapore Airlines will have four daily designated VTL flights from November 8: SQ212 and SQ222 from Sydney to Singapore, and SQ218 and SQ228 from Melbourne to Singapore.
(SQ's low-cost sibling Scoot will also fly daily VTL services from Melbourne in TR19, and a four-times weekly VTL service from Sydney in TR13).
Ahead of the flight, you'll also need to
- take out travel insurance with a minimum coverage of SGD$30,000 "for Covid-19-related medical treatment and hospitalisation costs"
- apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) to enter Singapore under the VTL; VTP applications will open at 10am on November 1 2021 (Singapore time) for fully-vaccinated travellers from Australia entering Singapore on or after November 8, 2021
- download Singapore's TraceTogether smartphone app "to facilitate contact tracing" and keep it running on your smartphone "at all times while in Singapore"
We realise this is rather more complicated than the pre-pandemic era of "buy a ticket, head to the airport, don't forget your passport" – but, for now, it's just the shape of travel in the shadow of Covid.