Coronavirus: Some Singapore students scramble to change flights to avoid UK quarantine

This follows news that from today, those arriving from S'pore don't have to self-isolate for 14 days

Mr Nallur Shreyas (left) and Mr Cornelius Chong take pictures at the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Sept 18, 2020.
Mr Nallur Shreyas (left) and Mr Cornelius Chong take pictures at the departure hall of Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Sept 18, 2020.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Several Singaporean students studying in the United Kingdom scrambled to change their flights there yesterday to ensure they would not have to spend time in quarantine upon arrival.

This was due to Thursday's announcement that from 4am this morning, those arriving in England and Scotland from Singapore will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days after landing. The same applies for travellers entering Wales and Northern Ireland.

Travellers from Singapore and Thailand have now been added to the UK's travel corridor list, meaning they do not have to enter quarantine if they have not been in or transited through any other non-exempt countries in the 14 days preceding their arrival.

Ms Yang Xin, 22, a third-year medical student at Oxford University, changed her Singapore Airlines flight to the UK from one scheduled to depart at 9am yesterday to one on Sept 26, upon hearing the news.

Ms Yang, who has to sit an examination on Oct 2, said she was glad to hear that she would not have to be quarantined. "My college charges more than £24 (S$42) per day (for quarantine accommodation) and food isn't provided, so it would have been a massive headache trying to settle food for 14 days."

London School of Economics student Cornelius Chong, 21, was scheduled to arrive in Britain at 6am today, narrowly missing having to serve quarantine.

School for him will start on Sept 28, but he said that he had arranged to arrive much earlier to serve the self-isolation period.

Mr Chong said yesterday: "This news of not having to serve a stay-home notice is definitely a pleasant surprise. I will have more time to adapt to the new environment there."

But he noted that this "definitely does not mean that we should let our guard down when we go out".

"The usual mask wearing, hand hygiene and not being in crowded places will definitely be even more important since regulations in the UK are unlikely to be as strict as Singapore's, and we will need to take our own precautions or risk getting infected," he said.

Some students said the lifting of quarantine requirements would not have had a bearing on their chosen date of return to the UK.

 
 
 

Ms Clara Tan, 21, a third-year law student at Oxford University, will be flying over on Wednesday.

She said she is "fatigued" from the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19. She has already served three 14-day quarantine periods in Singapore and Hong Kong, but said she "handles them pretty well".

"The announcement was certainly unexpected, but that is just the way things are these days.

"I really didn't feel like making yet another change to my plans because of some new change with the Covid-19 situation," she said. Her college also intended to give students free accommodation during the quarantine period.

Travellers who do not self-isolate as required can be fined £1,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and £480 in Scotland.

Travel agency Dynasty Travel said that for now, only students are travelling back to England before their semesters start later this month.

 
 

"Some leisure travellers are keen to travel, but they still have reservations and (are) cautious about potential risks," said its director of public relations and communications Alicia Seah.

She noted that mutual agreements and standard operating procedures are in place to ensure the safety of travellers.

Additional reporting by Ng Keng Gene and Clara Chong

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore students alter travel plans to avoid UK quarantine'. Print Edition | Subscribe