S'pore defers VTLs with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE to cut Covid-19 variant risk; border measures also under review

Singapore will be deferring its VTL with Qatar and the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The launch of vaccinated travel lanes with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be deferred, and border measures will be reviewed amid the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

The move is a precautionary measure to reduce the risks of importing and spreading the Omicron variant to Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a statement on Sunday (Nov 28).

The details of review of border measures will be announced soon, the statement added.

The deferment of the VTL to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE will be in place until further notice, MOH said.

"This is in view of their proximity as transport nodes to the affected countries of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe," it added.

The announcement came the night before applications for the three VTLs were supposed to open.

The VTLs to the three Middle Eastern countries were slated to begin on Dec 6.

The Omicron variant, known scientifically as B.1.1.529, was classified by the World Health Organisation on Nov 26 as a variant of concern.

Scientists are working to determine its characteristics, such as whether it is more transmissible than the Delta variant, and if it is more likely to lead to severe illness, said MOH.

It added that Singapore has not detected any cases of the Omicron variant to date.

Remote video URL

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.