German community in S'pore excited over vaccinated travel lane, but some are cautious

German Sabina Bauer, pictured with her husband and children. Ms Bauer is making plans for her in-laws to come to Singapore. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SABINA BAUER

SINGAPORE - Before the pandemic struck, Ms Tanja Jesemann used to fly back to Germany about three to four times a year.

That all came to an abrupt halt when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, separating her from her family back in Munich, where her two children and elderly mother live.

Like many Germans who have not been able to return home for more than a year, the news of the vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) came as a huge relief to her when it was announced on Thursday (Aug 19).

"I'm fortunate that my family back in Germany is safe, but emotionally (being separated) can be a struggle," said Ms Tanja, who is general manager at Paulaner Brauhaus Singapore, a German microbrewery and restaurant.

"We have been connecting online but it's not the same. It's a different story when you get to hug and see someone."

Under the new VTL from Sept 8, fully vaccinated passengers from Germany and Brunei can enter Singapore without having to serve stay-home notice.

They will instead have to undergo four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at various points during the trip, including one before the flight here.

Ms Tanja, 50, who has been living in Singapore with her husband for about four years, said she is already making plans to apply for the VTL as soon as applications open on Sept 1, for a business trip to Germany and to visit her family.

She said: "I still get goosebumps thinking about it, I'm just so excited and it feels like we're going back to normal."

For Ms Sabina Bauer, the pandemic meant she could not return to Germany last March for her father's funeral after he died from pancreatic cancer.

The 46-year-old German has been living in Singapore with her husband and her two children for 12 years. Before Covid-19, the family would travel back to Germany at least once a year, and their family there would also fly here regularly to visit.

"We decided that safety was the highest priority... We would never split the family nor travel separately during the pandemic," Ms Bauer said.

"We have been waiting patiently ever since to be able to travel to Germany again, as a family, in a safe manner and most importantly - to be able to come back again to our home."

Ms Bauer said she is already making plans for her in-laws to come to Singapore for a much longed-for reunion.

While many in the German community here are excited about the news, some are cautiously optimistic and are not making any immediate plans.

One of them is Ms Anne-Sophie Helms, 48, who has been living in Singapore for the past six years with her family. She has cancelled her trips to Germany three times since March last year, due to factors such as safety and the need for quarantine.

Ms Helms, who is the head of finance and administration at Goethe-Institut Singapore, the cultural institute of Germany here, said she may make plans only from October, as she wants to see how smoothly the VTL pans out.

She said: "My only concern is that this decision may be revised, and due to change of conditions while I am travelling that I might be prohibited from re-entering Singapore."

Germany is currently experiencing a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections driven by the contagious Delta variant.

Ms Lisa Wlaschek, 29, who works as a project manager here, said: "My father is really excited to come and visit, but for now we will wait and see...it's a bit hard to say what is going to happen and how things will change with more foreigners coming in."

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