Singapore will begin welcoming visitors from Germany this week in the first trial of its new ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane' concept as the country juggles the competing needs to reopen its economy while keeping the population safe from Covid outbreaks.
The system will allow travellers from Germany to freely enter Singapore without quarantine from September 8 on specially-designated VTL flights by Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.
Australia is a likely VTL candidate once its own vaccination rates reach 80%, which is expected to happen by mid-November.
Indeed, Singapore is sending some 500,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines from its existing stocks to Australia to speed the country towards its target, with Australia giving the same quantity of vaccinates back at a later date after Singapore has drawn down its existing supplies and looks at providing booster shots for some segments of its population.
Talks of restarting travel between Australia and Singapore began last year with the earliest notions of a 'travel bubble', similar to that briefly established with New Zealand – which at the time required little more than a little extra paperwork.
But the ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane' is more stringent – and looking at the Singapore-Germany VTL shows how the same system would be applied to Australia.
A key criteria, of course, is that any country included in a VTL corridor must be deemed 'low-risk' in terms of vaccination rates and control of Covid cases, and must also make a reciprocal welcome to travellers from Singapore.
Singapore’s strict ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane’ system
Assuming Australia meets these requirements, would-be travellers to Singapore would need to be fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 (with the final dose given at least 14 days prior to arrival in Singapore) with a vaccine recognised by the World Health Organisation.
That list includes both the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines currently being used in Australia, along with the forthcoming doses of Moderna.
Travellers will need to provide proof of vaccination in the form of an electronic or physical vaccination certificate – this is covered by the government-issued digital certificates but will also encompass the Travel Pass 'vaccine passport' app being rolled out by Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
VTL travellers must also have remained in their country of origin for at least 21 consecutive days before departure – which is not much of an issue in Australia right now, but could be worth bearing in mind if New Zealand and Singapore both open up around the same time.
Short-term visitors to Singapore must apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass issued between 7 and 30 days prior to their intended date of entry into Singapore, and – at least during the VTL pilot – travel on a specific flight designated for passengers holding that pass.
The VTL system is also only for passengers staying in Singapore, not for those in transit (so this can't be used as a 'backdoor method' to fly off to another country).
Extensive Covid testing
Finally, there's Covid-19 testing at both ends of the journey, with a pre-departure test done within 48 hours before the flight to Singapore departs; an on-arrival test at Singapore's Changi Airport; and up to two post-arrival tests in Singapore, on day 3 and day 7, through a government-authorised clinic.
Accommodation has to be booked for the duration of your stay in Singapore, and must include an en suite bathroom to meet on-arrival testing isolation requirements.
After landing at Changi and completing the on-arrival test, travellers "must take private transport only to your designated accommodation and self-isolate until you receive your on-arrival test results," which is typically within 24 hours.
You'll also need to download Singapore's TraceTogether app and keep it running on your smartphone "at all times while in Singapore."
Another requirement for short-term visitors is "insurance coverage of at least SGD30,000 for Covid-19 medical treatment and hospitalisation costs." Singapore Airlines is already offering travel insurance which meets this requirement.
There's no doubting this seems like a dizzying set of requirements, especially when compared to the easy and hassle-free nature of pre-Covid travel, and things might loosen somewhat after this VTL trial phase is complete.