SYDNEY/BANGKOK - Singapore will allow travellers from Australia, except those from the state of Victoria, and Vietnam to enter from next Thursday (Oct 8), but many holidaymakers may prove reluctant to visit because they will still have to undergo quarantine when they return home.
Australians travelling from Victoria, or those who have been in the state within the previous 14 days, will remain barred from entering Singapore.
Victoria's capital, Melbourne, is currently in lockdown after being hit by a second wave of infections, though its case numbers are quickly dropping.
Outside Victoria, Australia is largely free of community transmitted cases of Covid-19. On Thursday (Oct 1), Australia recorded 18 new cases of Covid-19, including 15 in Victoria, two in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. Australia has had a total of 27,096 cases and 888 deaths.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has not logged any local transmission for four weeks after successfully containing two waves of Covid-19 infections.
As of Thursday afternoon, Vietnam has recorded 1,095 cases and 35 deaths.
Singapore's Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the decision to lift the border restrictions was made because Australia and Vietnam had successfully controlled the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said he had spoken to his Australian counterpart, Mr Michael McCormack, and to Vietnam's Ambassador to Singapore, Mrs Tao Thi Than Huong, about the move, saying the two countries will consider removing restrictions on travellers who arrive from Singapore.
Last month, Singapore opened its borders to visitors from New Zealand and Brunei in a bid to boost the tourism sector and resuscitate Changi Airport.
Visitors from these countries, and new arrivals from Australia and Vietnam, will have to undergo a Covid-19 test on arrival and remain in their accommodation until they receive a negative result.
As of Thursday, visitors from Australia and Vietnam could make short-term visits subject to conditions.
But Australia's federal government still has strict travel curbs in place, including a requirement that anyone wanting to go overseas must receive an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.
Australia also requires all travellers arriving from abroad to undergo 14 days in quarantine. States can charge for quarantine. In New South Wales, the main gateway, those arriving from abroad must pay $A3,000 (S$2,940).
Currently, Vietnamese who have completed their overseas trips will have to join a queue alongside other countrymen waiting to be repatriated home, where a 14-day state quarantine awaits.
These restrictions are expected to deter holidaymakers from these two countries from rushing to Singapore.
"This is better suited to people relocating for work or spending maybe one to two weeks there," one Australian commenter said on the Executive Traveller website.
Australia's Prime Minister, Mr Scott Morrison, said this week he hoped to introduce home-based quarantines to make it easier for people to travel.
Mr Le Tien Dung, 45, a Ho Chi Minh City-based manager, said he would consider taking a vacation in Singapore if he was allowed to quarantine himself at home after his return. Before Covid struck, he used to travel to Singapore for business meetings.
"My family have not been to Singapore at all. That is why we thought about going there this summer," he said. "But now summer has passed, and we need to see if there are any more long vacations ahead."