Singapore is pressing ahead with plans to reopen its borders despite battling a record Covid-19 outbreak, saying it will allow vaccinated travelers from nine more countries including the U.S. and U.K. to enter without having to quarantine.
The other places to qualify are Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain with travel to Singapore to start from October 19 and South Korea from November 15, the government said Saturday.
The number of Covid tests will be cut from four to two, helping to reduce cost and inconvenience, according to authorities.
The move marks a significant step in Singapore’s reopening after it shifted away from a “Covid Zero” approach that’s still being pursued by the likes of Hong Kong, another Asian financial hub.
It comes as Singapore battles an escalation in Covid cases, with more than 3,000 new infections reported four days in a row this week. But is backed by the city-state’s high vaccination rate, with close to 85% of the population fully inoculated and most of the infections mild.
More details include:
- all nine countries are classified under so-called Category II of the health ministry’s border measures
- travelers using the arrangement must travel on designated flights
- children or people medically unfit to be vaccinated will not be allowed to use the vaccinated travel lanes
- short-term visitors and Singapore’s long-term passholders will have to apply for the vaccinated travel lanes, while citizens and permanent residents don’t need to do so
Transport Minister S. Iswaran said Singapore will start with up to 2,500 daily arrivals across the nine countries. He said the places rank among the Southeast Asian nation’s top 20 trading partners.
“They have significant investments, a strong business presence, and sizeable communities in Singapore,” Iswaran said during a briefing, adding the government will press on with border reopening. “It is, therefore, important that we reconnect with them early.”
Singapore Airlines ramps up flights
With this move, Singapore Airlines is expanding its vaccinated travel lanes network to 14 cities, with more points on special designated flights to be announced in coming weeks, the company said in a statement on Saturday.
Singapore already allows quarantine-free travel from so-called Category I places like China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, though most of those places haven’t reciprocated.
Under the vaccinated travel lane arrangements in place with Germany and Brunei, close to 2,000 travelers have entered Singapore and there have been only two Covid-19 cases detected at the point of arrival.
Earlier, Singapore had already shortened quarantine periods for travelers from several countries including the U.S. from October 7.
The government was under pressure from American officials to remove the requirement to isolate completely, people familiar with the matter said, partly because travelers from Singapore could more freely enter the U.S., the island nation’s biggest foreign investor.
The government is eager to restore connectivity given the importance of aviation, tourism and business to the trade-reliant economy. Passenger traffic at Changi Airport, a key international hub for travel and cargo, was just 2% of pre-Covid levels in the first eight months of this year, while Singapore Airlines’ passenger numbers are a tiny fraction of what they were in 2019.
Changi Airport posted its first annual net loss in the year through March because of the pandemic and flag-carrier Singapore Airlines has suffered hefty losses.
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