S'pore adds Australia, Switzerland to travel lane scheme

Vaccinated travellers from Australia and Switzerland will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine from Nov 8, as the Republic further expands a scheme to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers.

The addition of Australia to Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme means Australian residents can enjoy two-way quarantine-free travel between the two countries from Nov 8, while reciprocal arrangements for student and business pass holders from Singapore are expected to be in place by Nov 23.

Switzerland has already opened its borders to all travellers from Singapore. Thus, the expansion of the VTL scheme to include Switzerland means that Singapore residents will be able to fly to these countries and return without having to quarantine in either country.

However, Singapore residents looking to head to Australia for leisure travel have to wait a bit longer for a two-way trip without quarantine. Canberra has said arrangements allowing this could be in place by December.

Applications for the two VTLs will open on Monday.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran, who announced the new VTLs during a virtual media interview yesterday, said it is important for Singapore to persevere with efforts to reopen its borders and rebuild its status as an aviation hub.

He noted that both countries have strong economic ties to Singapore, and added that both countries have Covid-19 incidence rates similar to or lower than that of Singapore.

"We are in discussions with other partners, including our regional neighbours, to reopen safely to each other, and restore our close connectivity," he said.

"We hope to conclude more of these discussions soon."

Mr Iswaran added that the current VTL quota of 3,000 travellers daily will be increased to 4,000 daily with the announcement of the two new VTLs.

The VTLs let vaccinated travellers enter Singapore without having to serve stay-home notices. Instead, they will take a Covid-19 swab test before departure and after arrival in Singapore.

The Republic has thus far announced 11 VTLs. Ten of the VTLs, including those with the United States and Britain, have started, while the last one for South Korea is due to start on Nov 15.

  • 11 Number of VTLs Singapore has announced. Ten of the VTLs, including those with the United States and Britain, have started; the one for South Korea is due to start on Nov 15.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said the successful implementation of the VTL scheme so far has given CAAS the experience and confidence to extend it to more countries.

It added that there are safeguards such as Covid-19 testing under the scheme, and that the number of arrivals will be managed by the VTL quota that is in place.

"We will monitor the progress of the scheme closely before deciding on any further increases in capacity," added CAAS.

On the country reopening to Australia, CAAS said Australia was among the top 10 markets for annual passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, accounting for about 4 per cent of total arrivals in 2019.

There are more than 50,000 Singaporeans who live in Australia while over 25,000 Australians live in Singapore, it noted.

On the country reopening to Switzerland, CAAS said Switzerland is a major financial centre and ranks among Singapore's top trading and investment partners.

It said there is a strong business presence of more than 1,000 Swiss companies operating in Singapore. There are also about 3,000 Swiss expatriates living in Singapore.

Flag carrier Singapore Airlines will operate designated VTL flights from Australia and Switzerland.

Its budget arm Scoot will also operate VTL flights from Melbourne and Sydney.

Mr Philip Goh, the International Air Transport Association's regional vice-president for Asia-Pacific, said it welcomes Singapore's further expansion of the VTLs.

"Ultimately, we hope that there would not be a need to restrict travel capacity on VTLs because such capacity restrictions retard the pace of recovery," he added.

"We hope that Singapore will be able to move to the next phase soon to bring about a broad-based reopening."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore adds Australia, Switzerland to travel lane scheme'. Subscribe