Singapore is opening its borders to more countries for quarantine-free travel as the city-state seeks to rebuild its status as an international aviation hub, and prepares to reach a “new normal” to live with COVID-19.
From 19 October, fully vaccinated people from eight countries, including Britain, France, Spain, and the United States, will be able to enter Singapore without quarantining if they pass their COVID-19 tests, the government said on Saturday.
The announcement marks a major step in Singapore’s strategy to resume international links.
The Southeast Asian nation, one of the world’s biggest travel and finance hubs, is home to Asian headquarters of thousands of global companies whose executives have long relied on Singapore’s connectivity.
The country of 5.45 million people has been reporting record daily COVID-19 infections of more than 3,000 over the past few days, though almost all the cases are asymptomatic or mild.
About 83% of the population is fully vaccinated, one of the world’s highest rates.
Singapore’s travel programme for fully vaccinated people began in September with Germany and Brunei, and will include South Korea from next month.
Up to 3,000 travellers will be able to enter daily through the vaccinated travel lanes, a far cry from the record 19.1 million travellers to the city-state in 2019. Borders remain largely closed to key Asian countries.
Singapore is discussing two-way quarantine-free travel with several more countries, the government said.
“We hope this further easing of measures and expansion of Singapore’s border reopening will spur other markets to similarly navigate their pathways towards restarting air travel,” said Philip Goh, Asia-Pacific vice president for the International Air Transport Association.
Singapore Airlines said in a statement that it will expand its vaccinated travel lane (VTL) networks to 14 cities including, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
These are on top of the existing VTL arrangements with Brunei and Germany, which began in September 2021.
Singapore Airlines will operate VTL services from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Paris, and Rome starting 19 October 2021. SIA’s VTL services from Seoul will begin on 16 November 2021.
Today, SIA operates VTL services from Bandar Seri Begawan, Frankfurt, and Munich.
Scoot, SIA’s sister airline, will operate VTL flights from Berlin from 20 October 2021.
“Singapore’s expansion of the VTL arrangements to 11 countries is great news for our customers, who can now reunite with their loved ones more easily or finally go on that overseas holiday,” said Mr Lee Lik Hsin, Executive Vice President Commercial, Singapore Airlines.
“The SIA Group supports all measures to reopen Singapore to quarantine-free international travel. This will enable the safe and gradual recovery of Changi Airport as a major air hub, backed by rising vaccination rates and confidence in the robust health and safety measures across the end-to-end customer journey.”
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