S'pore to start VTLs with Indonesia and India from Nov 29, and with Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia from Dec 6

Travellers from Indonesia (left) and India will be able to enter Singapore under a quarantine-free travel scheme from Nov 29. PHOTOS: UNSPLASH

SINGAPORE - Travellers from Indonesia, and possibly India, will be able to enter Singapore under a quarantine-free travel scheme from Nov 29, in a move that will rebuild air links with two of Changi Airport's top three markets.

Singapore is in talks with India to resume scheduled commercial services between the two countries. The aim is to start two daily Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights each from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai by Nov 29.

Currently, the only flights from Singapore that are allowed to carry passengers to India are government-chartered relief flights.

In addition, travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be able to enter Singapore from Dec 6, in a further expansion of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme.

Indonesia remains closed to general travel from Singapore.

But travellers can travel without quarantine to and from India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which earlier opened their borders for vaccinated travellers from Singapore. More details about the VTLs will be given soon.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced the VTL expansion on Monday (Nov 15).

Transport Minister S. Iswaran said during a press conference by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force that the countries Singapore will open up to are all significant destinations.

For example, India accounted for about 7 per cent of passenger arrivals at Changi Airport in 2019.

Mr Iswaran said he hopes Indonesia will soon reopen its borders to travellers from Singapore, noting it has already unilaterally opened its borders to visitors from 19 countries. There will be two daily VTL flights between Singapore and Jakarta for a start, and this will go up to four.

India, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are in Category Two of the Health Ministry's Covid-19 risk classification for border measures.

The countries' classification means they either have similar or lower Covid-19 incidence rates than Singapore and other VTL countries.

By Dec 6, Singapore will have a total of 21 VTLs.

The Republic had earlier announced VTLs with 16 other countries. Thirteen of these are already in effect, and three more with Malaysia, Sweden and Finland are due to start on Nov 29.

On Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said the land border between Singapore and Malaysia could reopen in a few weeks' time under a "Vaccinated Travel Lane-like arrangement".

Travellers entering Singapore under the VTL scheme do not have to serve a stay-home notice. Instead, they have to test negative for Covid-19 two days prior to departure for Singapore, as well as upon arrival.

Since Nov 11, travellers can submit a negative test result from either a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test or a professionally administered antigen rapid test.

Upon arrival, they will be required to take a PCR test, and can go about their activities if they test negative.

With the addition of the new VTL countries, the overall daily quota of arrivals via the scheme will be increased from 6,000 to 10,000.

CAAS advised travellers to check entry requirements of the respective VTL countries, which may vary. The requirements could also change as the Covid-19 situation evolves, it added.

It also said it is closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation worldwide and in each VTL country, and will adjust measures if needed.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Covid-19 infection rates have been going up across Europe so far, but these are comparable to Singapore's.

Only the Netherlands have surpassed Singapore by a slight margin, he added.

But the Government does not think it is necessary to rescind the VTL with the Netherlands or to reduce the quota of daily arrivals yet, Mr Ong said.

He noted that VTL travellers from the Netherlands are fully vaccinated and tested before departure for Singapore. There are also only six VTL flights a week from the Netherlands.

"Imported cases are still a very small fraction of total community cases, and do not significantly affect local transmissions," said Mr Ong.

The authority said that as at 11.59pm on Sunday, it has issued a total of 45,380 Vaccinated Travel Passes for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders from 13 countries.

These countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Britain and the United States.

Short-term visitors and long-term pass holders have to apply for the Vaccinated Travel Pass to tap the VTL scheme. Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged 12 and below do not have to do so.

As at Sunday, 24,070 VTL travellers have entered Singapore.

These VTL travellers comprise 13,274 short-term visitors or long-term pass holders, 9,595 Singapore citizens and permanent residents and 1,201 children aged 12 years and below.

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