Over 12,000 serving extended SHN in S'pore; hotels ramping up capacity, safety measures

Travellers from high-risk countries now have to undergo 21 days of stay-home notice, up from 14 days. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 12,000 people currently serving their stay-home notices (SHN) in hotels here on Saturday (May 8) have begun an additional week of self-isolation at their current location, as tightened border and community measures kicked in.

While the majority of travellers arriving here from midnight on Friday would be aware they have to undergo 21 days of SHN, some who were midway through their isolation told The Straits Times they were caught off-guard by the extension from 14 to 21 days that was announced last week.

Meanwhile, hotels here who are catering to SHN guests said they have been putting in place their own measures for longer stays, which includes preparing more rooms.

But the new rules have left some holidaygoers frustrated, as some hotels which previously catered to staycation guests have converted to SHN-only facilities.

Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it would tighten border measures to manage the risk of Covid-19 being imported by travellers and onward transmission into the local community.

This comes as Covid-19 variants have been detected in the community, and the number of community cases went up last week.

Among the measures, all travellers arriving in Singapore from 11.59pm on Friday would have to undergo 21 days of SHN - instead of 14 days previously - except those coming from Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Those currently on 14-day SHN and who had yet to complete their isolation by midnight on Friday are required to serve an additional seven days at their current SHN facility so as to minimise movement and risk of transmission, MOH had said.

This means an additional $1,200 expense for a single traveller for the extra week of food and accommodation at a hotel, as well as for one more polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on the 21st day of SHN. This is on top of the $2,000 for a 14-day SHN under previous rules.

Travellers like Mr Harry Ho, 57, said those already under SHN when the announcement was made should not be liable for the additional expense.

Mr Ho, who is doing his SHN at Royal Plaza on Scotts hotel, said the authorities had told him those facing financial difficulties can request a cost waiver with supporting documents, but did not specify what these documents are.

ST understands that guests who had booked staycations at hotels like Mandarin Orchard were told they had to postpone or cancel their bookings, as the hotel would become a SHN-dedicated facility.

In a joint reply to ST, the Ministry of National Development and Singapore Tourism Board said travellers are required to pay for the additional seven days' stay and will be informed by the hotel or government agencies on the additional costs.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that those who have problems paying can make an appeal by providing supporting documents, without elaborating.

More than 70 hotels here have been serving as SHN-dedicated facilities since last March, with the number of facilities in use varying based on demand, said the authorities. They did not say how many additional hotels were activated in light of the extended SHN.

"Facilities (are) activated as and when needed," they said. "The Government will continue to monitor the evolving situation, and work closely with these organisations to adjust the capacity of such facilities accordingly."

Hotel operators here told ST they will do more to help their guests cope with the extended SHN requirements.

"Each guest will stay longer, so we will need to provide them a little bit more care, as this is a long time for people to be stuck in one room," said Mr Garth Simmons, chief executive officer of Accor South-east Asia, Japan and South Korea.

Accor's hotels, which include Fairmont Singapore and the Ibis Budget chain, will implement additional calls to check in on their guests, and expand their food and beverage menus to provide more variety, he added.

To ensure the safety of guests and staff, hotels such as The Westin Singapore have expanded and intensified their cleaning regime.

Acting general manager Kuljit Singh said that some of the measures include disinfecting both designated public and operations areas with approved electrostatic sprayers and hospital-grade disinfectant and deep cleaning of each guest room.

As full resumption of international travel is impossible in the foreseeable future, hotels said they are glad to have SHN visitors, which keep them in operation.

A marketing head of an international hotel said that during this time, most hotels want to operate exclusively for SHN due to the stable revenue, as the staycation business tends to be less dependable. But the Government usually wants hotels to be SHN-exclusive, while some hotels have long-stay guests.

A spokesman from Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which operates Orchard Hotel, M Social Singapore, Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Copthorne King's Hotel, M Hotel and Studio M, said that they are ready to set aside more rooms to accommodate SHN guests.

Mr Simmons said that although the rates for SHN business are far below what their traditional guests would pay, they are grateful that the SHN rooms are keeping their hotels in operation and their staff in employment.

He said: "We are in the business of caring for people, so we will continue to care for all our guests, no matter what brings them to our hotels."

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