Singapore will extend vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) to six more countries, including Sri Lanka next month, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced on Friday (Nov 26).
Travellers from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, and Turkey may enter Singapore under the quarantine-free VTL from December 16.
From December 14, travellers from Thailand may enter Singapore under the same procedure.
This latest move will increase the number of countries with which Singapore has VTL arrangements to 27.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, these 27 countries contributed to about 60 per cent of the total daily arrivals at Changi Airport, said CAAS.
“This latest extension will further broaden Changi’s network and help reclaim and rebuild Singapore’s status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity,” said the authority.
With the latest extension, the daily VTL quota will be raised from 10,000 to 15,000 travellers.
Speaking at a virtual media doorstop on Friday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said that Singapore’s VTL quotas amount to about one-third of the total pre-COVID flows from these countries.
He added that the move was a “further calibrated expansion” of the VTL scheme and will reconnect Singapore with the world while managing the public health risk.
“Even as we continue to reopen our borders to secure Singapore’s position as a global business and aviation hub, we will closely monitor the global public health situation, especially for the emergence of any new variants of concern, and impose additional safeguards as necessary,” Mr Iswaran added.
“This is integral to our careful and calibrated approach to reopening our borders, and tightening our safeguards when warranted by the latest public health risk assessment.”
He also urged all Singaporeans and residents to closely track the situation in the countries they are visiting, and to be “well-informed and updated” on their latest public health and border measures, as well as to plan “well ahead” for contingencies.
Under the VTL scheme, fully vaccinated travellers on designated VTL flights can enter Singapore without undergoing quarantine. They are only required to undergo COVID-19 testing.
“The expansion of the VTL scheme to these countries will continue to restore two-way quarantine-free travel between Singapore and VTL countries whose borders are now open to us,” said CAAS.
“CONFIDENCE” TO EXTEND VTL SCHEME
CAAS said the “successful implementation of the VTL without compromising public health” gave it the “confidence” to extend the scheme to more countries.
All six VTL countries announced on Friday have “similar or lower COVID-19 incidence rates” than Singapore and the other VTL countries, it said.
Thailand, Cambodia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka were popular tourist destinations for Singaporeans before the COVID-19 pandemic, said CAAS.
These four countries have already opened their borders to quarantine-free general travel for vaccinated people, noted the authority.
In particular, Thailand reopened its borders to vaccinated travellers from more than 60 places, including Singapore, on Nov 1. Cambodia reopened its borders to all vaccinated travellers on Nov 15.
Extending the VTL to Turkey, which is also already open to quarantine-free vaccinated travel from Singapore, will “enable us to connect with another major aviation hub”, said CAAS.
As for Fiji, it will reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers from 40 “partner countries”, including Singapore, from Dec 1, said the authority.
“The VTL with Fiji will allow fully vaccinated travellers from other VTL countries which Fiji has opened to, such as Australia, Canada, France, the Republic of Korea, the UK and the USA, to extend their trip to Singapore without quarantine,” added CAAS.
RECOGNITION OF EU DIGITAL VACCINE CERTIFICATE
From Dec 7, Singapore will accept vaccination certificates issued in the European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC) format as valid proof for VTL travel, said CAAS.
This comes after the European Commission announced on Wednesday that it would recognise the Singapore HealthCerts as equivalent to the EU DCC, connecting Singapore to this “trust framework”, said the authority.
With this, travellers from VTL countries with EU DCC certificates – even if those were issued in a non-VTL country – will be able to travel to Singapore on VTL, said CAAS.
These travellers must still meet other VTL conditions, it added.
RESTRICTIONS TIGHTENED FOR SOME COUNTRIES
Separately, Singapore will tighten border measures for six European countries, following the “worsening situation” in those locations.
Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein and Slovakia will be classified as Category III countries from 11.59pm on Dec 1, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a separate news release.
Travellers from Category III countries are required to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at their place of accommodation, in addition to COVID-19 testing.
Belize, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Panama, Peru and Uruguay will also be classified as Category III countries from 11.59pm on Dec 1.
MOH said it will also classify Thailand, Argentina, Kuwait, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan and Romania as Category II countries from the same date.
Those arriving from Category II countries must serve a seven-day stay-home notice at their place of accommodation and be tested for COVID-19.
UPDATE ON VTL TRAVELLERS
As of 11.59pm on Thursday, 79,335 vaccinated travel passes have been issued for entry into Singapore between Sep 8 and Jan 27, 2022, said CAAS.
This number does not include Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged 12 and below travelling under the VTL, who do not need to apply for a vaccinated travel pass.
Just over 37,000 VTL travellers have entered Singapore as of Thursday, added CAAS.
More than 20,000 of these are short-term visitors or long-term pass holders. About 15,000 are Singaporeans or permanent residents, and about 1,700 are children. (NewsWire)