askST: Do I still need to take PCR tests to travel? What are S'pore's latest border measures?

Singapore has announced changes that will apply to travellers from 11.59 pm on Feb 22, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Vaccinated travellers will be able to enter Singapore from more countries and with fewer Covid-19 tests as the country resumes its border reopening following a three-month pause.

The Straits Times looks at the key changes in Singapore's border restrictions:

1. For all travel (air, sea and land)

What are the changes that will apply to travellers from 11.59pm on Feb 21?

First, the travel history requirement will be cut from 14 to seven days. This means that a passenger's travel history prior to the past seven days will not affect his ability to travel to Singapore.

Second, the stay-home notice (SHN) requirement for travellers will be standardised at seven days for those who must quarantine after arriving in Singapore. Currently, it can go up to 10 days for those arriving from countries deemed to be of high risk for Covid-19 infections.

The new measure means that most arrivals not under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme will face a seven-day isolation requirement, regardless of which country they are from.

Third, VTL travellers will no longer need to test themselves daily for Covid-19 with an antigen rapid test (ART) kit from Day 2 to Day 7 after their arrival.

Fourth, VTL travellers will no longer need to take an on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. This will be replaced by a supervised self-swab ART at a testing centre. The test must be taken within 24 hours of their arrival in Singapore.

This rule update also applies to non-VTL travellers from Macau, China and Taiwan.

Last, vaccinated long-term pass holders, except work permit holders, will no longer have to obtain a vaccinated travel pass or an entry approval to enter Singapore.

Work permit holders and short-term visitors should continue to obtain a vaccinated travel pass if entering through VTLs.

This excludes work permit holders in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors and other dormitory-bound work permit holders, who are not allowed to enter Singapore via VTLs.

2. For air travel

a) What are the new countries and regions that will be added to the VTL scheme?

The VTL scheme allows travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine. VTLs are generally unilateral moves by Singapore.

On Feb 25, VTLs for Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates will take off. Short-term visitors and eligible work permit holders can apply to travel under the scheme from 10am on Feb 22.

On March 4, VTLs for Israel and the Philippines will start. Short-term visitors and eligible work permit holders can apply to tap the scheme from 10am on March 1.

The VTL for Thailand will be extended beyond Bangkok to include flights from all Thai cities. Airlines can operate designated VTL flights from these other cities once they get approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.

By March 4, 15,000 air travellers will be allowed to enter under the VTL scheme daily, up from the current cap of 5,000.

Singapore will start VTLs for more places, including (clockwise from top left) Hong Kong, Thailand, Qatar and the Philippines. PHOTOS: AFP, BLOOMBERG

b) What will change in Singapore's stance for travellers from Hong Kong?

Currently, all travellers from Hong Kong can enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine. But following the Health Ministry's review of the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong, this arrangement will stop at 11.59pm on Feb 24.

It will instead be replaced by a VTL for Hong Kong travellers. This means only travellers vaccinated against Covid-19 can enter Singapore without having to quarantine.

The VTL for Hong Kong will start on Feb 25.

c) What are the on-arrival Covid-19 testing requirements for air travellers?

Currently, VTL air travellers have to take an on-arrival PCR test at Changi Airport. This test costs $125.

In addition, they will have to test themselves for Covid-19 with ART kits from Day 2 to Day 7 after their arrival if they plan to leave their place of accommodation.

These two sets of testing requirements will stop at 11.59pm next Monday (Feb 21). They will be replaced by the standardised testing requirement of a supervised self-swab test.

The authorities had earlier allowed arriving VTL air travellers to clear their pre-departure test requirement through a professionally administered antigen rapid test.

The latest move thus means that air travellers entering through VTLs can avoid the more expensive PCR test for the first time since the scheme started in September last year.

3. For land travel

a) What are the changes in the Singapore-Malaysia land VTL?

More travellers can now buy bus tickets for quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Malaysia via the Causeway.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said on Wednesday (Feb 16) that it will lift a 50 per cent limit imposed on the land VTL arrivals since December.

From next Tuesday, 2,160 travellers can enter Singapore daily under the land VTL with Malaysia.

b) What are the on-arrival testing requirements for the land VTL?

Currently, travellers must take a supervised self-swab ART upon arrival at the two designated bus terminals in Singapore.

They will also have to swab themselves daily on Days 2 to 7 after their arrival.

These two requirements will stop at 11.59pm on Feb 21 and be replaced by the new standardised requirements.

4. For sea travel

Can I now take a round trip to Batam and Bintan without having to serve quarantine?

Singapore does not have a VTL for entry by sea currently. So while it is technically possible for a traveller to go to specific areas in Batam and Bintan without having to serve quarantine, he will have to serve a seven-day SHN when he returns.

But on Feb 25, Singapore will launch a sea VTL arrangement with Batam and Bintan.

Applications for the Vaccinated Travel Pass will open at 10am on Feb 22.

The arrangement will initially allow 350 travellers weekly each from the Nongsapura International Ferry Terminal and the Bandar Bintan Telani Ferry Terminal.

As with the VTLs for land and air travel, VTL sea travellers must take a pre-departure test that can either be a PCR test or a professionally administered ART.

They must also take a supervised ART within 24 hours after their arrival in Singapore and remain isolated until their result is confirmed to be negative.

Read next: What you need to know about Singapore's latest Covid-19 measures

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