SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) on Wednesday (Dec 22) said airlines will no longer be allowed to sell new vaccinated travel lane (VTL) flight tickets for travel into Singapore until Jan 20.
The Straits Times looks at why it is happening and what it means for your travel arrangements.
1. First, why is it necessary when Covid-19 is already endemic?
The latest measures are spurred by the Omicron variant, little about which is yet known. In many countries, the number of new Omicron infections has been doubling every two days, and it has become the dominant variant in the United States, Britain and South Africa.
Although early indicators show that Omicron is less lethal than other variants, scientists have said they need more time to better understand it. MOH said the measures will do precisely that. In the interim, it wants to improve Singapore's healthcare capacity and get more people vaccinated or take their booster shots.
2. Does that mean there are no more VTL flights before Jan 21?
It depends on whether you have bought your VTL tickets.
If you have not, there are no more VTL flights for you. Following the MOH announcement, people can no longer buy tickets to enter Singapore quarantine-free.
For those who have already bought tickets, their VTL tickets will be honoured and they can still fly on VTL-designated flights.
Whether you can still go to another country without quarantine will depend on that country's prevailing measures, and with the Omicron variant spreading, it is prudent for travellers to keep themselves up to date.
South Korea, for example, still allows Singaporeans to fly there without being subjected to a stay-home notice, whereas even Malaysians in Singapore returning to Malaysia via non-VTL means will now be subjected to a seven-day quarantine.
3. What should I do if I still want to enter Singapore without a VTL ticket?
You have to take Covid-19 tests and undergo quarantine.
The latest measures reverse the state of affairs to pre-VTL travel, which means that there are still flights into Singapore, except that they require travellers to quarantine, with the duration dependent on where they are travelling from.
For example, if you are a Singaporean entering Singapore from the United Kingdom, you have to serve a seven-day stay-home notice at either a hotel or a declared place of residence, since the United Kingdom is a Category II country, according to MOH's classification.
If you are entering from Norway, which is in Category III, you serve a 10-day stay-home notice.
An exception is those entering Singapore from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan or mainland China, which are all in Category I. These travellers simply have to remain in self-isolation until they test negative in a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test.
The latest prevailing health requirements for travelling into Singapore can be found at this website.
4. What about the land VTL with Malaysia? Can I still take the bus from Singapore to Johor Baru?
Again, it depends on whether you have already bought tickets. Those who have done so can still take the VTL buses between now and Jan 20.
Those who have not can no longer purchase tickets, and must wait until after Jan 21 when land VTL ticket sales are set to resume.
But note that the quota for travel between Singapore and Malaysia will also be halved from Jan 21, from 100 buses daily to just 48.
Tickets from Singapore to Johor Baru operated by Causeway Link are already sold out. Transtar Travel is selling tickets for just one particular day of travel every day, beginning with tickets for Jan 21 on Thursday (Dec 23).
Tickets go on sale at 8am every day.