Singapore cancels its quarantine-free VTL programme for 1 month

PHOTO: Singapore will ban the VTL programme over Omicron fears. (via World travel)

Much like Thailand has ceased its Test & Go programme that allows vaccinated travellers to enter the country without quarantine aside from waiting for an RT-PCR test result, Singapore is putting their quarantine-free travel plan on hold as well. The government of Singapore says they are taking action to try to avoid the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 by stopping ticket sales for flights and buses under the Vaccinated Travel Lane Programme for one month from today.

The VTL programme created the opportunity for travellers from approved countries that are fully vaccinated to enter Singapore on certain flights and buses without the need for quarantine. Countries like the US and UK, Australia, Malaysia, and India – about 2 dozen countries in total – are on the approved list. All travellers in the programme are subject to regular Covid-19 testing – once a day for the first week.

But now that programme will be suspended and no new tickets will be sold for those flights and buses for travel before January 20 when the moratorium is planned to be lifted. Even the lifting won’t be straight back to full speed, as the government will plan to limit the program to just 50% of the capacity the VTL was allowed before this shutdown. The ban and later easing is meant to give the country time to understand the Omicron variant, according to a statement by the health ministry.

“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted.”

All tickets already sold as part of the VTL scheme will still be honoured, provided the travellers still meet the Covid-19 safety requirements. Authorities are also warning travellers who do come to Singapore in the VTL programme to exercise caution and Covid-19 safety, avoiding large groups and unnecessary social interaction.

For now, the government says that they have the Omicron variant under control. Only a handful of locally transmitted infections have been found so far and about 65 cases have been uncovered in arriving travellers. Authorities said they have it contained and have limited its spread.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.