Pre-departure Covid-19 testing to be required for S'pore citizens and PRs

This updated measure will take effect from 11.59pm on May 29, 2021.
This updated measure will take effect from 11.59pm on May 29, 2021.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) will have to test negative for Covid-19 before returning to or transiting through Singapore, as the country further tightens its border measures to manage the risk of imported cases and virus transmission in the community. 

This pre-departure testing requirement will take effect at 11.59pm on Saturday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Wednesday (May 26). 

All travellers have to present a valid negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken within 72 hours before leaving for Singapore, before they are allowed to board their flight or ferry, apart from those who had stayed in lower-risk places for 21 days.

They will have to show their results again upon arrival in Singapore, before taking a PCR test and serving a 21-day stay-home notice (SHN).

This is the first time MOH has required Singaporeans and PRs to take a pre-departure test. It previously said it did not want to make it difficult for them to return home, should they be caught unprepared by rapidly deteriorating pandemic conditions abroad.

All long-term pass holders and short-term visitors entering Singapore have been required to present a valid negative PCR test before departing for Singapore since November 2020.

MOH yesterday said: "We have put in place advisories on overseas travel for some time now, and Singapore citizens and PRs abroad would have had more time to manage the risks of Covid-19 in the countries that they are in."

Travellers who arrive in Singapore without a valid negative test may be denied entry, it said. PRs and long-term pass holders who fail to comply with the new requirement may have their permit or pass cancelled.

Citizens and PRs who stayed in lower-risk countries or regions – Australia, Brunei, mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and New Zealand – for 21 days before their departure for Singapore are excluded from the stepped-up measure. 

They have to either take a Covid-19 test upon arrival in lieu of an SHN, or serve a seven-day SHN at their place of residence and take a test at the end of this period.

The extended testing requirement is the latest in a series of tightened border measures taken by Singapore in recent weeks, as it confronts new and more infectious variants of Covid-19. 

The Government has lengthened the SHN period for travellers from higher-risk countries or regions, and stopped accepting new entry applications for work pass holders from higher-risk areas for now. 

Long-term visit pass holders and short-term visitors who have been in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka within the last 21 days have also been barred from entering Singapore. 

In its statement, MOH said Singapore will continue to adjust its border measures to manage the risk of importation and transmission of Covid-19 to the community as the global situation evolves.

Travellers who test positive for Covid-19 should seek appropriate medical care and ensure they have fully recovered and are non-infectious before travelling to Singapore, the ministry said.

It added that Singaporeans who test positive for Covid-19 while abroad and require urgent medical care in Singapore can still return home via a medical evacuation flight or other similar forms of transport. 

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said the latest measure would help minimise the burden on Singapore’s healthcare system. 

Since the country’s policy is for all travellers who test positive to be admitted and evaluated, those who enter Singapore and end up testing positive would have to be taken to hospitals and community care facilities here, potentially straining the system, Dr Leong added.

But he noted that this does not mean MOH will turn away Singaporeans or PRs who require serious medical attention. “This move is just to help minimise the cases that are relatively well and could be handled outside of Singapore,” he said.