As a first step, travellers from countries/regions such as Hong Kong, ANZ, Mainland China and more will be classified in one of four categories, each with differentiated border measures, based on a traveller’s 21-day travel history prior to their entry into Singapore.
On Thursday (19 August 2021), Singapore's Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) introduced a series of steps that the country will be taking forward, in its move towards COVID resilience.
These include vaccination-differentiated border measures for travellers from selected countries from today (20 August); a new Vaccinated Travel Lane; and more.
Vaccination-differentiated border measures starting 20 August
On 6 August 2021, the MTF announced that border restrictions would be progressively reviewed to facilitate more travel when conditions allow.
In line with that, it noted that the country's higher population vaccination rates "now give us the foundation to introduce vaccination-differentiated border measures for travellers from countries/regions that have controlled the pandemic well and also vaccinated large parts of their population."
As a first step, following a review of the country/ region classifications for these border measures, the Taskforce added that countries/ regions will be classified in one of four categories, each with differentiated border measures, premised on a traveller’s 21-day travel history prior to their entry into Singapore.
If the traveller visits or transits through countries/ regions in different categories, the most stringent set of requirements among those countries/ regions will apply.
Travellers from countries/ regions in this category can enter Singapore without having to serve a Stay-Home Notice (SHN). They will only be subject to an On-Arrival COVID-19 PCR and if negative, will be allowed to go about their activities. This would include countries/regions such as Mainland China (excluding Jiangsu province), New Zealand, and Taiwan from 19 August.
Following a review of the COVID-19 situation in Hong Kong and Macao, the MTF has also added both regions to this category from 20 August 2021, 2359 hours. More details here.
On Hong Kong, Minister for Transport & Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, S Iswaran and Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Edward Yau, have discussed and agreed not to pursue further discussions on the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble at this point.
In a statement on Thursday, Minister Iswaran said: "In Singapore, a substantial proportion of our population is fully vaccinated. Hong Kong too is progressively vaccinating its population. Both sides are focused on keeping our populations safe and preventing the risk of imported cases.
"But our strategies differ, with Singapore now taking steps towards becoming a COVID-resilient nation. Against this backdrop, both parties agreed that it would not be possible to launch or sustain the ATB in its present form."
Travellers from countries/ regions in this category will be required to undergo a seven-day SHN, which can be served at their accommodation of choice. Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass Holders may serve their seven-day SHN at their place of residence, if conditions are suitable.
Currently, only Mainland China (Jiangsu province) is in this category. However, from 2359 hours on 20 August, Australia, Brunei, Canada, and Germany, will be added to this category.
Unvaccinated travellers from countries/ regions in this category will be required to undergo a 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities. Travellers who are fully vaccinated may apply to opt out of dedicated SHN facilities and serve their 14-day SHN at a suitable accommodation of their choice, if they fulfil the criteria detailed here. Currently, Austria, Italy, Norway, the Republic of Korea and Switzerland are in this category, and Belgium, Denmark, Japan and Luxembourg, will be added from 20 August 2021, 2359 hrs.
Travellers from all other countries/ regions (except Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, where entry is currently not allowed) will be required to undergo a 14-day SHN at dedicated SHN facilities. Travellers will also be required to comply with the testing regime as indicated here.
Vaccinated Travel Lanes open from 8 September
Beyond the above framework, the MTF also announced the implementation of a new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) to facilitate fully-vaccinated persons' to travel into Singapore under reduced border measures.
The VTL arrangements will be piloted with Brunei and Germany. In lieu of SHN, these vaccinated travellers under the VTL will undergo multiple COVID-19 PCR tests, including a pre-departure PCR test within 48 hours of their scheduled departure for Singapore, an on-arrival PCR test upon arriving in Singapore, and two additional PCR tests on days Three and seven of their stay in Singapore (if they have not left yet).
The number of VTL travellers, the MTF added, will be limited by available flights dedicated to the scheme. VTL travellers must also travel on non-stop designated flights to Singapore.
Procedures to note:
- Prior to travelling to Singapore, short-term visitors and Long-Term Pass holders who wish to travel under the VTL will need to apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass between seven and 30 days before their intended date of entry into Singapore. Applications for the VTP will start from 1 September 2021 for travel into Singapore from 8 September 2021.
- Returning Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who are vaccinated will automatically qualify and will not need to apply for the VTP in order to travel under the VTL.
- According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), those who are vaccinated in Singapore can show their vaccination status on the HealthHub app to the airline at check-in before departure for Singapore.
- Those who are not vaccinated in Singapore can present proof of their vaccination taken in their country of departure to the airline at check-in and to the Singapore immigration authorities on arrival at Changi Airport.
- The VTL arrangement will come into effect for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who enter Singapore on or after 8 September 2021, 0001 hours (Singapore time).
- "Travellers under the VTL will have to comply strictly with the conditions of travel. Those who fail to complete the required PCR tests may be served with a SHN to be quarantined in a dedicated facility. It is also a chargeable offence under the Infectious Diseases Act," CAAS added.
The MTF noted: "As the global situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures in tandem with our roadmap to becoming a COVID resilient nation.
"Any changes to border measures will be updated on the SafeTravel website. Travellers are advised to visit the website to check the latest border measures for the associated country or region before entering Singapore."
Recognising overseas vaccinations with WHO EUL Vaccines
Effective 20 August 2021, 2359 hours, Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) will issue a tamper-proof vaccination sticker to be affixed onto the passport of newly-arrived travellers who were fully vaccinated overseas with a WHO-Emergency Use Listing (EUL) vaccine, and who can furnish a valid, English-language vaccination certificate.
These travellers will be eligible for vaccination-differentiated safe management measures if they produce their passport with the valid tamper-proof sticker affixed. To obtain this sticker, travellers should produce their English-language vaccination certificates to ICA officers at the Singapore immigration checkpoints upon arrival.
"By September, the IT systems will also be enhanced so that travellers, upon verification of their eligible vaccination status at entry, will also be recognised by the SE Biz App through their TraceTogether Apps/Tokens to be eligible for vaccination-differentiated safe management measures without needing to go through PET (pre-event testing), the Taskforce shared.
Looking ahead, the country is "planning ahead to ensure that our population continues to be well protected from COVID-19 and its new variants as they arise."
"The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination has been reviewing and monitoring the local and overseas data on vaccine boosters and is developing recommendations on Singapore’s booster strategy. The Expert Committee is also looking at the need to enhance the immune response of certain groups of individuals. This includes the severely immunocompromised who have a weaker immune response to vaccination despite completing a full vaccination regimen. For this group, there may be benefits in administering a third dose of the vaccine for them," the Taskforce noted.
In a LinkedIn post on Thursday, following the Taskforce's announcement, Minister Iswaran, said: "We are taking a step-by-step approach to reopening borders, and this is possible because 77% of Singapore’s population has received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we look forward to this increasing further in the coming days.
"To the Singaporeans who want us to reopen more quickly, I seek your patience - it is more important that we get it right than do it fast. To those who are concerned about the risk, I seek your understanding - we are moving in a cautious, calibrated, step-by-step manner. The safety of our people will always remain our utmost priority."
Lead image / Minister S Iswaran's LinkedIn