Singapore welcomes 250 passengers on first two flights under expanded VTL scheme

Passengers at Changi Airport after arriving on Flight SQ329 from Amsterdam on the morning of Oct 20, 2021. - ST

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): About 250 passengers landed at Changi Airport and entered Singapore on Wednesday (Oct 20) morning, arriving on the first two flights under the expanded quarantine-free travel scheme for travellers vaccinated against Covid-19.

Flight SQ329 from the Netherlands, operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), touched down at about 6.35am with about 80 Singapore-bound passengers on board.

About an hour and a half later, SQ317 came from London.

The first flight had departed from Amsterdam at about 11.15am local time, or 5.15pm Singapore time, on Tuesday.

First to appear at the baggage collection point, about 15 minutes after the plane landed, was a woman who seemed to be travelling alone.

The Straits Times team at Terminal 3, where the flight landed, noticed that those who arrived were mainly single travellers or couples.

There were at least three families with children.

There was an equal mix of Asians and Caucasians.

Movement controls were tight at the arrival hall. Passengers were directed through an area cordoned off from the public.

They were seen being ushered by airport staff clad in disposal gowns, masks and gloves to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before being directed to a specific taxi stand or pick-up point for their transport out of the airport.

Family members or friends who had come to receive passengers were told to wait in a separate area.

After meeting the passengers, those who drove had to take one of two lifts - not accessible to other members of the public - to get to the carpark.

Only three people were seen at the waiting area when ST was there between 6.35am and 7.50am.

Passengers at the baggage claim area in Changi Airport's Terminal 3 after arriving on Flight SQ329 from Amsterdam on the morning of Oct 20, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

One of them, Harald Mullens, was waiting for his wife and daughter, who were returning from a visit to their relatives in the Netherlands.

The 47-year-old, who works in the food and beverage industry, said his wife had intended to take an earlier flight back to Singapore.

But they switched to SQ329's flight when they found out no quarantine would be needed upon arrival in Singapore.

The Netherlands is among eight countries that Singapore opened up Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) to from Tuesday - the Republic's biggest move to reopen its borders since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The other countries are the United States, Canada, Denmark, Britain, Denmark, France, Italy and Spain.

Singapore had earlier opened up VTLs to Germany and Brunei on Sept 8.

The VTL scheme allows vaccinated travellers on designated flights to enter the Republic quarantine-free.

But they must take a PCR test before departure and when they land at Changi Airport.

The eight countries that Singapore opened up to from Tuesday, as well as Germany, have also allowed travellers from the Republic to fly over on any flight without having to serve quarantine there.

Singapore will also jointly launch VTLs with South Korea on Nov 15.

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