Singapore will reopen vaccinated travel with six more countries including Thailand next month while imposing quarantine on travelers from parts of Africa due to fear of a new coronavirus variant.
Thailand, Cambodia, Maldives, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Fiji will join 21 other countries already on the list of places vaccinated Singaporeans can travel to without quarantine, the Transport Ministry announced today. Amid concern over a newly emerged and highly mutated variant, the Health Ministry also announced today that Singapore would require 10-day isolation of those arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and a week for those from South Africa, where the B.1.1.529 variant was first detected.
“Globally, scientists are still finding out about the variant – whether it is more transmissible than the Delta variant, whether it will lead to more severe illness, and the efficacy of existing vaccines against it,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said today. “But we need to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risks of spread of this new variant, while we find out more about it.”
The restrictions take effect tomorrow. The minister noted that there have been no reports of the B.1.1.529 variant in Singapore so far, though it has surfaced in Hong Kong.
Vaccinated Singaporeans can travel to Thailand beginning Dec. 14, and vice-versa. The city-state’s reopening to the other five places starts Dec. 16.
Those nations “have similar or lower COVID-19 incidence rates than Singapore and the other (approved) countries,” the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement. The daily quota for travelers under the Vaccinated Travel Lane, or VTL, will be raised from 10,000 to 15,000, it said.
For entry to Singapore, the authority said it will require short- and long-term visa holders to apply for a vaccinated travel pass. Other requirements include taking COVID-19 tests and ensuring that travelers have not flown anywhere else in the past 14 days. It cautioned Singaporeans to find out for themselves the various travel requirements of their destinations.
Singapore’s COVID-19 infections are slowing down again after peaking on Oct. 27, when it hit over 4,600 new daily cases. Nearly 700 people have died of the coronavirus in Singapore, most of which were reported over the past two months.