S’pore will launch VTLs with Indonesia and India from November 29, and with Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia from December 6, Transport News & Top Stories

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SINGAPORE – Travelers from Indonesia, and possibly India, will be able to enter Singapore under a quarantine-free travel program from November 29, which will help rebuild air links with two of the three main markets at Changi Airport.

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

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

Additionally, travelers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be able to enter Singapore from December 6, as part of a further extension of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program.

Indonesia remains closed to general travel from Singapore.

But travelers can travel without quarantine to and from India, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which previously opened their borders to vaccinated travelers from Singapore. More details on the VTL will be given shortly.

The Singapore Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS) announced the extension of the VTL on Monday, November 15.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran told a press conference of the Covid-19 multi-ministerial task force that the countries to which Singapore will open are all important destinations.

For example, India accounted for around 7% of passenger arrivals at Changi Airport in 2019.

Mr Iswaran said he hoped Indonesia would soon reopen its borders to travelers from Singapore, noting that it had already unilaterally opened its borders to visitors from 19 countries. There will be two daily VTL flights between Singapore and Jakarta to begin with, and this will increase to four.

India, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are in category two of the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 risk classification for border measures.

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

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

The Republic had previously announced VTLs with 16 other countries. Thirteen of them are already in force, and three more with Malaysia, Sweden and Finland are expected to start on November 29.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday that the land border between Singapore and Malaysia could reopen in a few weeks under a “Vaccinated Travel Lane arrangement”.

Travelers entering Singapore under the VTL program do not have to serve a home stay notice. Instead, they must test negative for Covid-19 two days before leaving for Singapore, as well as upon arrival.

As of November 11, travelers can submit a negative test result either by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab or by a rapid antigen test administered by a professional.

Upon arrival, they will have to take a PCR test and can go about their business if they are negative.

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

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

He also said he was closely monitoring the Covid-19 situation around the world and in each VTL country, and would adjust measures if necessary.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said Covid-19 infection rates have so far increased across Europe, but are comparable to those in Singapore.

Only the Netherlands slightly overtook Singapore, he added.

But the government does not think there is a need to cancel VTL with the Netherlands or reduce the daily arrivals quota yet, Ong said.

He noted that VTL travelers from the Netherlands are fully vaccinated and tested before leaving for Singapore. There are also only six VTL flights per week from the Netherlands.

“Imported cases still represent a very small fraction of total community cases and do not significantly affect local transmissions,” Ong said.

The authority said as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday it had 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, Great Britain and the United States.

Short-term visitors and long-term pass holders must apply for the Vaccinated Travel Pass to take advantage of the VTL program. Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged 12 and under do not have to do this.

24,070 VTL travelers entered Singapore on Sunday.

These VTL travelers include 13,274 short-term visitors or long-term pass holders, 9,595 Singapore citizens and permanent residents, and 1,201 children aged 12 and under.

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