Travel plans in disarray for overseas Singaporeans due to Covid-19 curbs on travellers from UK

Mr Dilane Peiris, his wife Nora, and their children Fergus (right) and Magnus. PHOTO: HANNAH RENAUD PHOTOGRAPHY

SINGAPORE - Dr Dilane Peiris, 35, had four air tickets booked from London to Melbourne via Singapore on New Year's Eve, but his family travel plans to kick-start 2021 have been thrown into disarray.

Following the announcement that a new strain of the coronavirus is circulating in Britain, more than 40 countries, including Singapore, have tightened restrictions on inbound travellers from the country.

As of Thursday (Dec 24), anyone who is not a Singaporean or permanent resident, with travel history to Britain within the last 14 days, including those who had obtained prior approval for entry, will no longer be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore.

Returning Singaporeans and PRs, who will be tested on arrival, will still be allowed in. As before, they will be under a 14-day stay-home notice, and will be tested again towards the end of this period.

Dr Peiris, a Singaporean, was set to move to Australia with his family for a one-year fellowship next year.

The medical doctor is married to a British national and has two sons - aged 2½ years and seven months - both also British nationals.

While he is allowed to continue on his flight as planned under the latest travel stipulations, his family will not be allowed to board the transit flight through Singapore.

"We had assumed that Singapore would not ban travellers because of the already quite robust quarantine measures. My wife and children are with me all the time.

"So if I'm allowed to travel, the risk they pose to the Singapore population would likely not be higher," he told The Straits Times on Thursday.

He has made an appeal to the Singapore High Commission in London and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

"I understand where the authorities are coming from. The Singapore Government has done such a good job," he said.

"But we will not be going into Singapore. We don't even have to enter the airport (if we are allowed to remain on the plane)."

Singapore Airlines said the 14 flights between London and Singapore that it operates weekly will not be affected by the latest change to Covid-19 restrictions.

But those intending to fly here are worried. With the situation in flux, they say they expect airlines to reduce flights, especially if they are unable to fill planes with Singaporeans and PRs alone.

Singaporean Radha Nair, the president of the Singapore UK Association, said many Singaporeans living in Britain are married to British nationals.

This complicates travel arrangements, as some of them were thinking of flying back over the festive season to avoid the escalating crisis in Britain.

Mrs Nair, 37, said: "I'm not really scared but am wary of going out for normal walks, now that there is some evidence that even children can be infected by the new strain of the coronavirus."

She has not taken her two children, aged four and seven, for their usual walks since the British government made the announcement on the new virus strain last Saturday.

The teacher goes out only for grocery runs now, and wears her gloves and mask when doing so.

"Many Singaporeans book their flights only one or two days before they intend to fly, due to the unpredictability of the situation.

"This makes it even more uncertain," she said of the possible flight cuts between Britain and Singapore in the long term.

Operations analyst George Bryden, 25, who is living in Singapore, said the new restrictions put paid to any possibility of him flying back to Britain to see his family over the holidays.

"Even though there was only a slim chance of me spending Christmas with my family because of how expensive the stay-home notice hotels (in Singapore) are, there is now no chance I'll get to see my family this year," he said.

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