Singapore welcomes more travellers under quarantine-free programme

Passengers from Amsterdam arrive at Changi Airport under Singapore’s expanded Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) quarantine-free travel scheme, as the city-state opens its borders to more countries amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Singapore October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore welcomed on Wednesday the first travellers under an expanded quarantine-free programme, marking a big step towards the aviation hub restoring its international links, despite a sharp rise in its COVID-19 cases.

Singapore Airlines flights from Amsterdam and London arrived on Wednesday under the so-called vaccinated travel lanes (VTL).

"Yeah, that's (a) perfect visit. It's really convenient," said Singapore resident Andrea Mullens, who returned from the Netherlands with her daughter, who will return to school in Singapore.

"It's a good thing happening. I think travel in general is a bit challenging at the moment."

Husband Harald said he would return to the Netherlands next week on business.

"I do appreciate that family can travel again," he said.

From this week, the lanes will be extended to vaccinated arrivals from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain and the United States, who can enter Singapore without quarantine if they pass COVID-19 tests.

Singapore earlier opened the lane to arrivals from Germany and Brunei and will include South Korea from mid-November.

While Singapore is opening further, a recent rise in cases has prompted tighter measures locally, including limiting social gatherings to two people and only allowing vaccinated people to enter malls.

Mask-wearing is also mandatory, with some violators fined or even jailed for breaching COVID-19 regulations.

On Monday, the United States advised citizens against travel to Singapore, raising its alert for the city-state to its highest risk level.

Singapore saw a record 3,994 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, having recorded more than 3,000 daily infections in recent days. Most are asymptomatic or mild, with over 80% of the 5.45 million population vaccinated.

Singapore had, until recently, kept the virus largely under control through border closures and strict contact-tracing and quarantining.

(Writing by Chen Lin; Editing by Martin Petty and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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