In the first major easing of leisure travel restrictions since March last year, fully vaccinated Singapore residents will soon be able to fly to Germany and back without having to serve a stay-home notice.
The change kicks in on Sept 8, and is part of a broader relaxation of border measures for travellers from certain cities and countries.
"We will not throw caution to the wind," said Transport Minister S. Iswaran at a virtual press conference yesterday, adding that Singapore will take a "cautious, careful, step-by-step approach" to reopening its borders.
But he also stressed that Singapore's connectivity with the world is critical, saying: "The longer our borders remain closed, the greater the risk of lasting damage to our economy, our livelihoods, and our status as an aviation hub."
The latest easing of travel restrictions comes under a new Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme announced yesterday. As part of the scheme, Singapore will open its borders to vaccinated travellers from selected countries, starting with Germany and Brunei.
As Germany currently allows unrestricted entry for Singapore residents, the scheme means that people will be able to fly there and back without being quarantined.
Instead, they will be subject to several polymerase chain reaction tests and a short period of self-isolation.
Singapore will also unilaterally lift restrictions for inbound travellers from Macau and Hong Kong. Short-term visitors from both cities can enter Singapore without serving a stay-home notice, regardless of vaccination status.
However, they will have to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival and have insurance against the disease.
Travel advisories for Singapore residents have been updated accordingly, although travellers will have to check entry requirements imposed by their destination countries or cities.
The Republic will classify countries and regions into four risk-based categories, with differentiated border measures for each group.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung also gave an update on the national Covid-19 situation at yesterday's press conference, noting that cases have come down two weeks into Singapore's easing of its phase two (heightened alert) measures.
The Republic reported 32 new coronavirus cases yesterday, 29 of which were locally transmitted. A total of 290 cases were detected in the past week, down from 412 the week before.
This shows that virus transmission can be kept under control with a high rate of vaccination and safe-management measures that differentiate by vaccination status, Mr Ong said.
The multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here also announced changes to how Singapore will handle vaccination and mild cases of the disease in the coming months.
From Aug 30, patients with mild Covid-19 infections may be allowed to recover in isolation at home, under a new pilot scheme.
The authorities are also studying booster shots for the general population, and plan to give the green light for children under 12 years old to be vaccinated early next year.
Singapore is in a better position to reopen its economy because of its high vaccine coverage, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.
But its people should keep in mind that cases will rise as it does so, and be prepared for a "long and hard slog" to reach its end goal of becoming a Covid-resilient nation.
He said that the country cannot afford to take the risk of a "big bang" reopening that might result in a large outbreak, and is therefore taking a step-by-step approach instead.
"As the saying goes, we are feeling the stones as we cross the river," Mr Wong said.
"Each time we make a move, we will monitor the data, we will look at the evidence and ensure that our hospital system is able to cope with the infection situation before we take the next step."