Singapore to expand no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travellers


SINGAPORE, Oct 18 (AFP): Fully vaccinated travellers from eight countries will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine from Tuesday, as the business hub eases restrictions and gears up to live with the coronavirus.

The city-state initially fought the pandemic by shutting borders, lockdowns of varying intensity and aggressive contact tracing but with more than 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated, authorities in the global aviation hub are keen to revive the economy.

They opened travel lanes for vaccinated passengers from Brunei and Germany in September, and will expand the scheme from Tuesday to another eight countries -- Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

The lane with South Korea will start November 15.

Under the policy, passengers will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus before they depart and on arrival.

"Singapore cannot stay locked down and closed off indefinitely," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said October 9, when he announced a raft of measures under the "Living with Covid-19" strategy.

Lee pointed to the Delta coronavirus variant as a factor.

"The Delta variant is highly infectious, and has spread all over the world. Even with the whole population vaccinated, we still will not be able to stamp it out," he said.

"Almost every country has accepted this reality."

In addition to focusing on home care for mild and asymptomatic domestic cases, Lee said Singapore needed to resume international travel.

The city-state is home to the regional offices of thousands of multi-national corporations, which rely on Singapore's status as a business and aviation hub for their operations.

"We must continue to re-open our borders safely," Lee said. "Companies and investors need to carry out regional and global business from Singapore. People working for them need to travel to earn a living."

And the success of the city-state's vaccinated lanes project may boost the recovery in the global aviation industry, which was hammered by the pandemic.

"We hope the positive actions taken by Singapore will spur other markets to similarly navigate their pathways towards restarting air travel," said Philip Goh, Asia-Pacific vice president at aviation industry group IATA. - AFP

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