School holiday plans in tatters as VTL scheme means no overseas trips for unvaccinated children

The VTL scheme allows for quarantine-free travel both ways, but Singapore has not approved vaccination against Covid-19 for children under 12. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - She had been hoping for an overseas trip during the year-end school holidays but Ms Eileen Chua, 45, was left disappointed.

The vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme allows for quarantine-free travel both ways. But Singapore has not approved vaccination against Covid-19 for children under 12 as yet.

Ms Chua, who has a 10-year-old daughter, said: "This rule has created a lot of chaos at home because my daughter is very grumpy and unhappy that she cannot travel with us."

The Government on Saturday (Oct 9) announced an expanded list of 11 countries that vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to from later this month.

Ms Chua, a public relations consultant, had been thinking of an overseas holiday during the year-end school holidays, which runs from Nov 20 to Dec 31, according to the Ministry of Education website.

She said because of the rules, she is now deciding whether to leave her daughter at home to travel with her 45-year-old husband on a VTL-designated flight, or to take a non-VTL flight for all three, which means a stay-home notice on their return.

Ms Chua is frustrated that rules on travel continue to be tight when others have been relaxed, such as the allowing of children aged five to 11 to be placed on home recovery.

She added: "If parents are fine with taking the risk, then we should be given a choice. This is a very difficult position to be in."

From Oct 19, vaccinated travellers will be able to fly to Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the United States without quarantine under the VTL scheme.

The scheme will be extended to South Korea from Nov 15.

Travellers can already visit Germany as well as Brunei, which currently is not open for leisure trips.

They will have to show proof of vaccination and undergo polymerase chain reaction tests.

Mr Adrian Chiang, who has two daughters, aged 12 and 10, believes parents should be given a choice, as everyone has a different risk appetite.

Mr Chiang, who is a music teacher, said: "The Government can impose deterrents, for example, holding the patient responsible for the cost if they get Covid-19 on arrival."

The 43-year-old added: "But when it comes to deciding where the kids should go, it should be left to the parents."

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The Government had previously said the safety and efficacy aspects of vaccination for children under 12 years old are currently being studied, with plans to roll out vaccination for them early next year.

Teens aged 12 to 15 were approved to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech jab in May this year.

Miss Sarah Toh, who has three children aged between six months and eight years old, said with or without the VTL restriction, she would opt to keep her children at home.

The 34-year-old prefers to be safe.

"I'm sure there will be parents with unvaccinated young children who would want to travel.

"If they want to take their children overseas, they should be given a a choice to be fully responsible for their own child and the health risks they are exposing them to," said Ms Toh.

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