With neighbouring countries in the Asia-Pacific region making the shift to COVID-19 endemicity and relaxing entry restrictions in recent weeks and months, we have been eagerly awaiting news of Singapore’s next step to relax its border measures, as the country’s wave of Omicron infections subsides.
The Multi-Ministry Taskforce has now announced that from 1st April 2022 the complex Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme will finally be disbanded, around seven months after it was first introduced, and replaced with a simpler Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF) concept, allowing fully vaccinated travellers to enter from all countries on any flight.
On-arrival testing is being removed, with pre-departure tests also potentially set to be scrapped, following a review in two to four weeks from now.
The news comes exactly two years to the day since Singapore closed its borders to all short-term visitors, and limited entry for work pass holders, a policy that took effect on 24th March 2020.
Other relaxations to Singapore’s safe management measures, including group sizes and mask-wearing mandates, will also by relaxed a few days earlier than the border reopening, from 29th March 2022.
Here’s what we know so far as the details of the border relaxation are being released, with more specifics to follow.
Singapore Border Reopening
Vaccinated Travel Framework
- From 1st April 2022, fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Singapore from any country, except those with 7-day travel history including countries on the ‘Restricted’ list (currently impossible, there are none!)
- A booster dose is not required
- Children aged 12 or below are exempt from the vaccination requirement
- Short-term visitors will no longer need to apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP)
- Short-term visitors will need travel insurance, with a minimum S$30,000 cover
- The SG Arrival card (for all travellers) will be simplified
- Pre-departure test remains (PCR or ART within 2 days of departure)
- Travellers can arrive on any flight, operated by any airline
- No more on-arrival test
- No quarantine on arrival
Proof of vaccination for short-term visitors will be moved from the VTP, which is being scrapped, into the simplified SGAC (Arrival Card).
In time, the pre-departure test (PDT) requirement for air travel will also be removed, making the process when flying to Singapore almost completely pre-COVID. This may be possible within “two to four weeks”, according to Ministers.
That would be a fantastic step for travellers, removing the worry about being stranded overseas due to a positive PDT result.
Most of Singapore’s current list of VTL countries, including all countries in Europe, for example, already do not require fully vaccinated visitors to complete a PDT, so hopefully two-way quarantine-free and test-free travel is on the horizon for Singapore residents to and from many countries in the near future.
Note: For those entering Singapore by land, the pre-departure test requirement will be removed from 1st April 2022.
All these relaxations are clearly fantastic news for travellers, airlines and Changi Airport, and the shift to a simpler border process will certainly help us all get travelling to more places, for lower costs and with less inconvenience than before.
In order to be considered fully vaccinated for entry into Singapore under the VTF, you must meet one the following conditions at least two weeks before arrival:
- Received the full regimen of WHO EUL Vaccines (see below) and meet the minimum dose interval period; or
- If you contracted COVID-19 before being vaccinated, you must have received at least one dose of any WHO EUL Vaccine (see below) at least 28 days from your first diagnosis of a COVID-19 infection. You must produce acceptable proof of your first positive COVID-19 diagnosis in this case.
|Manufacturer / Vaccine||Doses||Minimum interval between doses|
|Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty||2 doses||17 days|
|Moderna||2 doses||24 days|
|AstraZeneca||2 doses||24 days|
|Covaxin||2 doses||24 days|
|Serum Institute of India (Covishield)||2 doses||24 days|
|Janssen / J&J||1 dose||N/A|
|Sinopharm||2 doses||17 days|
|Novavax||2 doses||17 days|
|Sinovac||2 doses||13 days|
|Two doses of different vaccine types, both from the list above||2 doses||17 days|
Proof of vaccination is preferably via digitally-verifiable means (QR code), but non-digital (paper-based) certificates are also accepted. See here for full details.
What about arriving from Malaysia via land?
These new border measures apply to travellers arriving in Singapore by air from all countries, including Malaysia, but what many of our readers are also eager to know is what relaxations will be made for the land border.
The Ministry of Health has stated that this will form part of a separate joint announcement with their Malaysian counterparts, so stay tuned for that.
What about those arriving from restricted countries?
Singapore’s list of restricted countries is currently empty, with all countries and regions around the world in the ‘General Travel’ category.
The restricted category may be used in future, for example if a new COVID-19 variant of concern emerges in a specific location.
If the list is used in future, travellers with a seven-day travel history including one or more restricted countries will be subject to the following requirements:
- A pre-departure PCR test is mandatory (rather than the VTF traveller requirement comprising either a PCR or ART test)
- An on-arrival PCR test will be conducted
- Seven-day SHN at a dedicated facility will be enforced on arrival in Singapore, at a cost of S$1,015
- A mandatory PCR test before the end of the SHN period, which will be arranged by ICA, at a cost of S$125
Let’s hope this category remains empty and does not need to be used, however in the event that it does come into force one option for travellers will be to clear their seven-day travel history of restricted countries by travelling to a ‘General Travel’ country for at least a week, before flying to Singapore.
Singapore was one of the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region to pioneer quarantine-free travel for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a pilot programme from Brunei and Germany way back in September 2021.
Some analysts said the scheme was “not scaleable” way back in October last year, but boy did Singapore prove them wrong!
Since then the VTL has been expanded to 32 countries, most of which allow two-way quarantine-free travel for Singapore residents, and boasts close to 1,000 weekly flight arrivals at Changi operated by 34 different airlines.
Singapore Vaccinated Travel Lanes
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka
🇭🇰 Hong Kong
Updated: 23 March 2022
The VTL concept was always a temporary solution of course, purely a way to get quarantine-free travel started from identified safer countries at a time when vaccination was still rolling out at different paces around the world.
Thankfully the scheme has now run its course, with high vaccination rates both in Singapore and worldwide.
Those touching down in Singapore from 1st April 2022 will no longer need to arrive on a designated VTL flight, since the scheme will then be terminated.
Our full list of VTL flights to Singapore shows that on the final day of the scheme (31st March 2022), 140 designated flights will land at Changi tagged with the quarantine-free seal of approval, operated by 34 different airlines from 29 different countries.
That’s out of around 200 total passenger flight arrivals at Changi the same day, so the VTL programme already covers the majority of arriving flights (70%) anyway.
The concept has also become a bit pointless in many ways.
Not everyone travelling on VTL flights was even tested, since those in transit at Changi no longer need to have a pre-flight swab unless their destination country requires it (which many now don’t).
Those travelling on fifth freedom VTL flights, like Rome to Copenhagen and Barcelona to Milan, who don’t continue to Singapore, don’t even need to comply with any of the VTL requirements, meaning passengers travelling all the way through to Singapore could be sat next to someone unvaccinated or untested for the intra-Europe hop.
It’s good news for airlines and travellers
Singapore’s VTL artificially limits capacity due to arrival caps, and unfortunately this affects fares and redemption opportunities.
This new policy will give airlines the freedom to restore services to Singapore from non-VTL countries, and operate all flights from VTL locations as regular quarantine-free options, rather than having a mixture of both on the same route.
Effectively, airlines will be able to react more ‘naturally’ to demand and border openings, as they did before COVID-19 and as they have been doing in other countries again more recently.
It’s good news for Changi Airport
One of the key aims for travel relaxation is undoubtedly to restore Changi Airport’s hub status once again in the region.
Before the VTLs came along, Changi Airport was recording less than 10,000 passengers per day (it has more luggage trollies than that!). That was the same total that usually passed through the terminals, on average, every 6 minutes, before COVID-19.
The VTLs have certainly helped change this, as anyone who has flown recently will tell you, with the airport more bustling again, especially during peak departure hours in the late evening.
Passenger traffic has gone from around 4% of pre-COVID levels in August 2021, just before the first VTLs kicked off, to 14% in February 2022.
Minister Iswaran confirmed today that the total has since reached around 18% in the most recent week (mid-March 2022).
The airport operator and the government will certainly be hoping that these latest travel and border relaxations will serve to boost the airport to much more significant traffic levels than now, perhaps even to 50% or more this year.
Safe Management Measures
Many Singapore residents will also be curious about the changes to Safe Management Measures in Singapore itself.
Here’s an infographic summary from CNA about these changes, which take effect from 29th March 2022.