Singapore is currently one of the toughest countries for foreigners to visit. Having remained virtually sealed off from the rest of the world for the best part of the pandemic, and only allowing pre-approved travelers arriving from specific countries to visit, the Asian hotspot may be finally lifting most of these strict requirements once the Omicron wave has fully receded, including the Vaccinated Travel Lanes.
Prior to the pandemic, the city-state attracted millions of visitors from all around the world, making up for its relatively small size with towering skyscrapers, all-inclusive resorts, diverse cuisine, and vibrant nightlife. It is also a gateway into other Southeast Asia destinations, such as Thailand and Indonesia. Since early 2020, however, fewer and fewer tourists have been welcomed in, particularly after Omicron.
Singapore Eyes Return To Pre-Covid Normality After Omicron
As reported by the Executive Traveller, Singapore is currently making preparations to officially abolish its most restrictive Covid entry curbs, including the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VLTs). During the peak of the crisis, the nation closed its borders to a majority of foreigners entering for tourism, only permitting those who were vaccinated, and were arriving from select locations, to land.
On top of that, these visitors were still required to undergo extensive testing. While nations like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom were in the VLT list, which meant vaccinated Americans, Canadians and Brits were allowed to visit, they were subject to pre-departure testing, a PCR test upon entry, which could cost as much as USD 100.00, and further tests on Days 2 and 7 of their stay.
While approved visitors continue subject to presenting a negative PCR result up to two days before traveling, all other mandates affecting vaccinated individuals traveling from a VLT country, such as the United States, no longer apply. Additionally, the country's Health Minister Ong Ye Kung gave us strong indication that the whole VLT system may be soon scrapped, as it is time for the country to “move on”.
As declared by Ong at a press conference last month, Singapore should allow “quarantine-free travel for vaccinated travelers” from all countries, as opposed to having bilateral vaccinated travel lanes with specific locations. While a date for the termination of the VLT list is yet to be announced, Ong did offer us a precious insight into when that might possibly happen, and it could actually be sooner than expected.
When Will The Vaccinated Travel Lanes Be Scrapped For Good?
According to the Health Minister, the target date is “after the current Omicron wave has peaked and started to subside”. Across Southeast Asia, several countries have been registering lower infection figures than they were two or three months ago, with Omicron cases falling sharply in neighboring Indonesia. In Singapore, the epidemiological scenario has also been improving lately, though at a slower pace.
While the country is already reporting fewer infections compared to the February 25 peak, the daily average of 17,416 cases may still be too high for the VLT lanes to be abolished with immediate effect. On the other hand, daily deaths have been dropping, and Singapore's vaccination program has also been a resounding success, with the number of shots reportedly given being enough to have immunized all 5 million+ residents.
Although Covid cases are yet to fall dramatically, the other positive trends observed may be a sign that the current Omicron wave is retreating in Singapore. This raises hope the nation will soon join a growing list of destinations in Asia open to travelers.
According to Transport Minister S. Iswaran, the “ultimate goal” is to offer quarantine-free travel to all immunized visitors, and reclaim Singapore's status as an international hub.
During his statement, the Health Minister also suggested on-arrival testing rules could soon be scrapped, as the country emphasizes less on quarantine and testing and more on guaranteeing that those who visit are vaccinated and boosted.
With the recent update in entry guidelines, that removed the need for pre-departure testing, it is safe to suggest further relaxation could be coming soon, especially if the situation continues to improve.
What Is The Status Of International Travel Across Southeast Asia?
This week, Singapore teamed up with some of its Asian partners to form a travel bubble, which will see tourists being allowed to move freely across participating countries while bypassing most restrictions, especially if they can prove they have been vaccinated. As the Omicron wave wanes with each passing day, travelers can expect more positive news emerging from Singapore regarding travel restrictions.
Singapore is not the only country in the continent making changes to its Covid border management and shifting towards treating the disease as endemic. Recently, we have had reports of border reopenings all around Asia, including Malaysia, Mongolia, and a number of others. Additionally, Bali is again granting visas on arrival for foreigners, while lifting the quarantine requirement as of March 7, 2022.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
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