Singapore's Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme may be expanded soon; one Covid-19 case found among 900 visitors


A passenger of Singapore Airlines flight SQ325, the first flight ferrying travellers from Germany under the quarantine-free scheme, at Changi Airport on Sept 8, 2021. - The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE, Sept 20 (The Straits Times/ANN): Vaccinated travellers from more countries are likely able to enter Singapore without having to quarantine "in the coming weeks and months".

This comes after a successful start to the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), with only one Covid-19 case detected upon arrival among some 900 travellers who have come in under the scheme.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran said on Monday (Sept 20) that the Republic is actively working to expand the VTL. The scheme started on Sept 8, and is open to Brunei and Germany for a start.

Travellers under this scheme will take up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in lieu of a stay-home notice.

Iswaran said the results in the first two weeks have been promising. More than 900 VTL travellers have entered Singapore, and all of them have fully complied with the mandatory testing regime, he said.

"Several countries and regions have expressed interest in opening VTLs with Singapore," he added.

Iswaran was speaking at a conference held to commemorate the 20-year milestone of the Ministry of Transport.

He said the VTL is an important step for everyone involved to understand and adapt to the requirements of reopening safely.

Iswaran told reporters on the sidelines of the event that the sole Covid-19 case detected among VTL travellers so far was identified in the test the traveller took upon arrival.

"The case was isolated and quarantined... So what it tells us is the system is working and we are gaining confidence with it."

A total of 2,500 people have applied to enter Singapore via the VTL so far, he added.

Iswaran said the aviation industry remains "a far cry from where we were". He noted that Changi Airport is operating at 3 per cent of the levels before the Covid-19 pandemic, while Singapore Airlines (SIA) is only ferrying 4 per cent of its usual traffic.

He reiterated that the air hub and connectivity are critical for Singapore's economy and its reputation as a trusted international hub.

"It may take some time for global air travel to normalise," said Iswaran. "But we will do our utmost to make sure Changi and SIA soar again."

On what countries Singapore might open up to under the VTL, Iswaran said it will be based on public health considerations as well as operational assessments.

Public health factors include the Covid-19 incidence rate, the vaccination rate and the testing regime in place in the country.

Operational assessments include ensuring that airlines, the airport and immigration authorities are able to handle the visitors in line with the required Covid-19 protocols.

When asked about the possibility of easing border measures with Malaysia, Iswaran said discussions with Malaysia are ongoing, without committing to any specifics.

“I think when both parties are ready, we will be prepared to make comments about how we want to re-establish connectivity,” he said. - The Straits Times/ANN

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