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Singapore to reopen borders to all fully vaccinated travellers on Apr 1; existing VTLs will be retired

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Singapore will reopen its borders to all fully vaccinated travellers, removing all existing vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) and unilateral opening arrangements from Apr 1, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced on Thursday (Mar 24). Gwyneth Teo reports. 

SINGAPORE: Singapore will reopen its borders to all fully vaccinated travellers, removing all existing vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) and unilateral opening arrangements from Apr 1, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced on Thursday (Mar 24).

Instead, it will transition to a new simplified travel framework - the vaccinated travel framework - where countries and regions will be classified into two categories - general travel or the restricted category.

Under the framework, all fully vaccinated travellers, as well as children aged 12 and below, will be able to enter Singapore with just a pre-departure COVID-19 test from 11.59pm on Mar 31.

They will also no longer need to apply for entry approvals or take designated VTL transport to enter Singapore quarantine-free. In addition, there will be no more quotas on the number of daily arrivals.

While they will continue to be subjected to a pre-departure test within two days before departure for Singapore, they will not be required to serve a stay-home notice or undergo an unsupervised antigen rapid test (ART) after arriving in Singapore.

As for long-term pass-holders and short-term visitors aged 13 and above who are not fully vaccinated, they are generally not allowed to enter Singapore, with a few exceptions. This includes long-term pass-holders who are medically ineligible for vaccines as well as those who have valid entry approval such as compassionate reasons.

For this group, they will be required to take a pre-departure test within two days before departure for Singapore, undergo a seven-day stay-home notice, and take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test after their isolation period.

In a separate press release on Thursday, MOH said it will continue to monitor the local and global COVID-19 situation and consider removing the pre-departure test requirement “in the coming weeks”.

"This is a precautionary measure, as COVID-19 cases are rising in some parts of the world," said Transport Minister S Iswaran during a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Thursday.

"We will review this requirement in two to four weeks by mid-April, taking into account the prevailing public health assessment."

The move to simplify Singapore’s processes for vaccinated travellers comes as the country’s local COVID-19 situation stabilises and many countries and regions pass the peak of their Omicron wave.

"Our aim is to welcome airlines back to Singapore, to serve Singapore and the region, raise passenger volumes to at least 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels this year and restore the traveller experience that Changi is renowned for," said Mr Iswaran.

For a start, all countries and regions will come under the general travel category, none are currently in the restricted category.

In the event of a new variant with "potentially significant" public health risk, MOH said it may re-classify significantly affected countries and regions under the restricted category with stringent border measures. This includes the need for entry approvals for short-term visitors to enter Singapore.

"This is to enable us to limit the risk of importing new and potentially dangerous variants if they arise, as well as to buy time for experts to better understand the characteristics of these variants and to develop appropriate public health recommendations," said MOH.

MOH added that the country is also working towards the full resumption of land travel with Malaysia for fully vaccinated travellers.

"Details on the exact border measures for fully vaccinated travellers entering Singapore via the land borders will be announced jointly with Malaysia," said the ministry. 

CHARGING POLICIES FOR VACCINATED TRAVELLERS

With the introduction of the new vaccinated travel framework, fully vaccinated Singapore residents as well as long-term pass holders will no longer be required to pay for medical bills incurred for COVID-19 treatment in hospitals and COVID-19 treatment facilities.

Currently, Singapore residents as well as long-term pass holders are responsible for medical bills in hospitals and dedicated COVID-19 treatment and recovery facilities, if they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of their return to Singapore.

"Any future changes to the charging policy for local community cases will correspondingly apply to this group of travellers," said MOH. 

"Travellers who are not fully vaccinated will remain responsible for their COVID-19 treatment costs, as per the charging policy for unvaccinated individuals who contracted COVID- 19 in the community"

Meanwhile, those who travelling to places under the restricted category, will be required to pay for medical bills in hospitals and dedicated COVID-19 treatment and recovery facilities, if they develop onset of symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 within seven days of their return to Singapore, regardless of their vaccination status.

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Source: CNA/vl(rw)
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