SINGAPORE, Oct 9 (The Straits Times/ANN): People vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to travel between Singapore and South Korea without quarantine from Nov 15.
The announcement by both countries means that Singapore residents now have a second option for leisure travel without quarantine, in addition to Germany.
The Transport Ministry announced on Friday (Oct 8) that Singapore will open up a new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with South Korea to facilitate travel for vaccinated travellers.
The jointly launched VTLs will be the first of their kind between two major aviation hubs in Asia and build on longstanding relations to safely revive cross-border air travel and people-to-people flows, said the ministry.
Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it will convert all the six flights it is operating between Singapore and Seoul into designated VTL services from Nov 16.
It added: “Customers are advised to carefully check the eligibility criteria for these VTL services once they have been published, and ensure they meet the travel requirements before their flights.”
It has no flights between the two countries on Nov 15.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) said that the agreement between Singapore and South Korea was marked by a video conference on Friday between Transport Minister S. Iswaran and the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea, Noh Hyeong-ouk.
MOT added that Singapore and South Korea have also agreed on the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccination certifications, which take effect from Nov 15.
This will allow fully vaccinated travellers with proof of vaccination issued in either country to tap vaccinated-differentiated safe management measures in both countries.
MOT said more details about the arrangement with South Korea will be announced in time.
Iswaran said both Singapore and South Korea have made excellent progress in vaccinating its populations, and the VTLs between the two countries reflect the trust in each other to manage the Covid-19 situation.
“This is another milestone as we reopen Singapore’s borders, and resume air travel in a careful and calibrated manner,” he added.
Before Covid-19, Singapore and South Korea were among each other's top travel destinations, with a total of 64 weekly passenger services connecting the two countries and carrying 1.6 million passengers annually.
Under the VTLs, fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel between Changi Airport and Incheon International Airport, and do polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, in lieu of serving quarantine or stay-home notice.
There will be no restrictions on the purpose of travel or the need for a controlled itinerary or sponsorship.
Singapore last month started the VTL scheme with Brunei and Germany.
Germany had earlier opened its borders to Singapore, but Brunei's borders remain largely closed.
Under the VTL scheme, fully vaccinated travellers can come into Singapore provided they meet several requirements, such as staying in either the country of departure and/or Singapore in the last 14 days prior to departing for Singapore.
They have to fly on designated VTL flights and take up to four Covid-19 PCR swab tests, including one pre-departure test and one on-arrival test.
According to data from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), South Korea was the ninth-largest market for Singapore in terms of international visitor arrivals in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The top three markets were China, Indonesia and India.
South Korea had suspended visa-free entry and visa-waiver programmes for most travellers from 90 countries, including Singapore.
Foreign residents with valid visas are required to serve a 14-day quarantine at their own expense.
Meanwhile, South Koreans are required to serve a 14-day quarantine in their homes after returning from overseas. However, fully vaccinated South Koreans and permanent residents are exempted from this requirement.
More VTLs are expected to be on the way, as Singapore looks to open up its borders and restore the Changi air hub to its former glory.
Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong said in Washington on Thursday that Singapore is working on establishing a VTL with the United States and wants to conclude it as soon as possible before the end of the year.
He said this follows successful VTL pilots with Germany and Brunei. - The Straits Times/ANN