PM Lee: S'poreans able to travel abroad almost like pre-Covid-19 times under simplified requirements

Time to fly again.

Matthias Ang | March 24, 2022, 11:43 AM

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Cross-border travel will be eased substantially, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on March 24, amidst the easing of other Covid-19 measures.

PM Lee said: "Earlier we were cautious because of uncertainty over the Omicron impact. Now the Omicron situation is well under control. Nearly all our cases are domestic originating within the community. Arrivals from abroad constitute only a very small proportion of cases."

Testing and quarantine requirements for travellers will be "drastically" streamlined so as to provide a simplified vaccination travel framework that will let Singaporeans travel abroad more easily, nearly akin to pre-Covid-19 times, he added.

The simplified framework will also lift most restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors entering Singapore.

"This will reconnect Singapore with the world. It will give a much needed boost to businesses, particularly the tourism sector, and it will help Singaporean claim its position as a business and aviation hub," PM Lee added.

Arrival tests to be done away with completely

He was echoed by Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong who said border measures and country region classifications will be streamlined as part of the simplification process.

In addition, on-arrival tests will be removed completely, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced.

As for pre-departure tests, this will be removed only for land travel, he said, while still being retained for both air and sea travel.

Ong said that while imported cases account for a "very small percentage" of daily cases, the rising number of infections in other countries and the relaxation of measures means that a calibrated approach must be taken.

This situation will be reviewed again in two to four weeks.

Ong also noted that there was feedback about difficulties in booking a supervised ART test overseas, prior to departing and returning to Singapore.

He said, "We have therefore set up a remote supervised self-swab ART service for Singaporeans, PRs and Work Pass holders. So do book your appointments early with the providers. You can just log on and they will observe you."

Travel category to be simplified

MOH will also remove the categorisation of countries by risk levels, he added.

Instead, there will be only two categories -- a general travel category where fully-vaccinated travellers can enter Singapore quarantine-free and a restricted category where variants of concern have been detected and where Singapore may temporarily suspend or slow down travel for places with variants of concern.

He was echoed by Transport Minister S Iswaran who said from April 1, 2022, all fully vaccinated travellers from any country or region can enter Singapore without being subjected to quarantine, provided they have not been to countries or regions on the restricted list for the past seven days.

Iswaran added, "We have no countries on the restricted list at present."

No more VTL-designated flights or ferry rides

There will also no longer be any VTL-designated flights or ferries for fully-vaccinated travellers.

This means they can take any flight or ferry to Singapore to be accorded quarantine-free treatment upon arrival.

Iswaran reiterated Ong's point that those arriving by air or sea will still need to submit a negative pre-departure test taken within two days of departure for Singapore, however.

The discontinuation of the VTL scheme also means that airlines can simply submit their plans to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and operate flights as they used to pre-Covid.

Aircrew will also be able to resume normal activities in Singapore or overseas and will be subject to similar testing requirements as vaccinated travellers.

The airport will also no longer be segregated by zones, which means all travellers arriving from countries and regions in the general travel category can move about freely in the transit areas.

As for airport workers, they will only need to put on surgical masks, unless they are in higher-risk roles, in which case face shields and gloves are required.

They will also no longer be subjected to rostered routine testing.

Singapore must still be prepared to re-establish health protocols

Iswaran added that Singapore must still be prepared to quickly re-establish health protocols if it is required.

He said:

"If the Covid-19 situation changes suddenly, as it has in the past, we must, as it were, preserve the muscle memory in our system, by ensuring that we preserve our capacity to process passengers from restricted list countries, have dedicated areas in the airport and to quickly stand up on-arrival testing and other public health measures at the airport and ferry terminals."

Top image via Changi Airport Facebook

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