Singapore moves to vaccinated-only travel


The beach is calling - Indonesia's Batam island will once again be accessible from Singapore.


Hong Kong is the only place to bear the brunt of tightening travel restrictions under an otherwise loosening of Singapore’s entry rules.


The Singapore government is moving towards vaccinated-only travel and has announced this week that it will be expanding its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.


Previously, Hong Kong travellers benefited from a quarantine-free arrival programme with Singapore, regardless of vaccination status. However, this will end on February 17 and will be replaced with a VTL, meaning all Hong Kong travellers must be fully vaccinated to enter Singapore. The VTL with Hong Kong will open on February 22.


The expanded VTL network will include Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from February 25 and from March 4, VTLs will be launched with Israel and the Philippines. Thailand is also soon to be included in the scheme.


The government will also lift the 50% cap on the number of VTL arrivals that has been in place since December.


According to Singapore’s health minister, Ong Ye Kung, imported infections make-up just one per cent of the total daily infection count, and thus have no significant impact on Singapore’s epidemic situation. He said that the country is now moving from VTLs with selected countries to opening up for all vaccinated travellers.


Singapore will also move to simplify its entrance requirements, introducing a new General Travel category that will replace categories II, III and IV in the city’s border risk classification system. Countries will be now divided into three groups according to risk. Category I includes places deemed to be of lowest risk, the General Travel category will include both VTL and non-VTL countries and a third category will include countries that warrant stricter border measures. There are currently no countries listed in this third category.


Vaccinated non-VTL arrivals in the General Travel category must undergo a seven day Stay Home Notice, while vaccinated VTL arrivals and arrivals from Category I must take a rapid test at one of the city’s designated testing centres within 24 hours of arrival - they will no longer be required to take an arrival PCR test.


From February 22, passengers transiting through Singapore will no longer be required to take a departure test.


In addition, the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan will become accessible to holidaymakers again as bi-directional quarantine-free sea travel between Singapore and Indonesia resumes from 10am on February 25. And the quotas for land VTLs between Singapore and Malaysia will be fully restored from February 22.


“Our ultimate goal is quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers,” said Singapore’s transport minister.


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