Dane's holiday turns into quarantine stint in Singapore after he tests positive for Covid-19

Danish tourist Danni Steger exploring Tiong Bahru after recovering from Covid-19, on Nov 16, 2021. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

SINGAPORE - When Danish accountant Danni Steger learnt about the Singapore-Denmark vaccinated travel lane (VTL) last month, he decided it was time to dust off his passport and take another vacation.

Mr Steger, 34, spent about 4,000 Danish krone (S$826) on a Singapore Airlines round-trip flight for a six-day vacation in Singapore.

Travel had already picked up in Europe, but he had his heart set on seeing more of South-east Asia after visiting Vietnam in 2019.

"I'd heard about Singapore's interesting food and many ethnicities, and wanted to see it for myself," says the bachelor, who used to travel at least once a year before the pandemic.

He arrived in Singapore alone on Nov 5. But the trip took a nightmarish turn when the results of his on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test turned out positive.

Just one in every thousand travellers entering Singapore via the VTL scheme has tested positive for Covid-19. There were 17 imported cases as at Nov 7, said Transport Minister S. Iswaran on Nov 8 at a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic here.

Leisure travel has picked up in recent weeks and by next month, Singapore will have VTLs with 21 countries across Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.

Despite the fanfare, pandemic travel carries an inherent risk. Travellers may be looking at an expensive stint in isolation if they test positive for Covid-19.

Those going abroad are also subject to this, with countries such as Australia and Britain requiring travellers from Singapore to take a Covid-19 test shortly after arrival.

For those driven by wanderlust, it is a chance they are willing to take. Travel insurance goes some way towards mitigating this risk, with some policies offering a Covid-19 quarantine allowance that can offset accommodation and related expenses.

However, Mr Steger's travel insurance did not include this. Relocating from his hotel in Joo Chiat to community care facility D'Resort NTUC in Pasir Ris, his main concern was racking up a hefty bill.

He estimates that his isolation stint will cost about $2,900.

For the next few days after his arrival, he paced the length of his room, alternating between watching movies on his mobile phone and working remotely. Friends in Singapore sent food and he had his first taste of local cuisine - wonton noodles, ondeh ondeh and tau sar piah - while still in isolation.

He says he had no symptoms and did not fear for his health, as he is fully vaccinated.

He tested negative on day five of the quarantine and was released the next day, postponing his return flight by six days and taking an additional week of leave to sightsee, so it would not be "a wasted trip".

Mr Danni Steger spent about 4,000 Danish krone (S$826) on a Singapore Airlines round-trip flight for a six-day vacation in Singapore. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

He explored much of the country during this time, from tourist attractions such as Gardens by the Bay to heartland areas such as Tiong Bahru market, Punggol Waterway Park and Joo Chiat.

A Singapore friend, whom he met on international accommodation-sharing platform Couchsurfing and hosted in his home city, played tour guide. Mr Steger lives in Jyllinge, located about 45 minutes from Copenhagen.

Although Denmark recently announced that travellers from Singapore would have to serve at least four days of quarantine, he is exempt from this, as he is a fully vaccinated Danish citizen.

Despite his vacation being upended by the coronavirus, he still considers it a good trip.

Despite his vacation being upended by the coronavirus, Mr Danni Steger still considers it a good trip. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL ANG

Sure, he wishes social distancing restrictions had been more relaxed, especially in hawker centres where he might have shared a table with locals and perhaps struck up a conversation with them. And he would have also enjoyed staying out a bit later than 10.30pm for drinks.

But he left last Thursday with good memories and has plans for a cycling trip from China to Singapore, through South-east Asia, when more countries ease their Covid-19 restrictions.

"It was not the big sights in Singapore that I wanted to see, but to interact with locals and understand what life is like in the country," he said.

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