MELBOURNE, Nov 22 — Before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Flora Chng, 68, would visit her daughter who lives in Melbourne, Australia, once every two years, or have her return to Singapore to visit.
But such routine plans were unceremoniously disrupted when governments around the world restricted cross-border movements to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Singapore and Australia, in particular, have had some of the strictest international travel policies, with both countries only allowing quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated travellers to travel to either countries in November.
For now, quarantine-free travel is only for those heading to the Australian Capital Territory, the Victoria state, where Melbourne is located, and the state of New South Wales, which is where Sydney is at.
Chng, a retiree, was among some of the passengers from Singapore who took the first quarantine-free flight to Melbourne.
1,440 travellers expected to use Singapore-Malaysia land VTL in first week, says Johor chief minister
The plane took off from Singapore at about 1am yesterday and landed in Melbourne at about 11am (local time).
And Chng said she can’t wait to get out of the arrival hall of the Melbourne airport.
“I haven’t seen her for so long; three years. I have been looking forward (to this) since 2020,” said Chng.
Final figures on the number of passengers were not available at press time, but TODAY understands that fewer than 200 people were on the Singapore Airlines SQ237 flight to Melbourne.
There were another 160 passengers on another Singapore Airlines flight SQ231 that arrived in Sydney past noon local time.
Chng’s trip to Melbourne is also her first since the pandemic started.
She said the customs clearance turned out to be faster than expected.
However, she said there was a lot to prepare before the trip.
“It took quite a while to navigate, find where the forms are,” she said.
Terence Chan, 42, who was also on the same flight to Melbourne, said that the whole process was smoother than he expected.
“The initial part, some of the information was a little bit hazy. But now, it’s definitely a lot clearer,” said the sales manager.
Chan flew to Melbourne to meet his extended family and former classmates whom he met when he studied here.
He would typically make such a trip once a year before Covid-19 hit, and said he is excited that he can now travel overseas after such a long time for this break.
Fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore have to apply for a visa, complete the Australia travel declaration and prepare a valid vaccination certificate, whether in paper or digital form, that is issued by a national, state or provincial level authority.
They also have to test negative in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours of their departure.
Apart from that, they have to book an on-arrival PCR test that has to be taken within 24 hours after arriving in either of the two states or the Australian Capital Territory. On-arrival PCR tests would be free for Singapore travellers.
Yeoh Kai Yue, a 17-year-old student, also came to Melbourne yesterday with her mother and brother to visit their extended relatives.
“We are excited because we have been in Singapore for so long and couldn’t get out. It’s nice to get out of Singapore and be back in Australia to visit relatives and reunite again,” she said. — Reuters