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Inbound travellers under the scheme only need to undergo a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and an on-arrival PCR test . — Reuters pic
Inbound travellers under the scheme only need to undergo a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and an on-arrival PCR test . — Reuters pic

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SINGAPORE, Oct 26 — The vaccinated travel lane scheme will be extended to Australia and Switzerland from Nov 8, allowing vaccinated travellers from these countries to enter Singapore without the need for quarantine, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on Tuesday (Oct 26).

Inbound travellers under the scheme only need to undergo a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and an on-arrival PCR test when they land in Singapore.

This arrangement will only be open to all fully vaccinated travellers from Australia to Singapore, CAAS noted, adding that Australia has not yet allowed quarantine-free entry for travellers from Singapore.

However, it expects student and business pass holders from Singapore to be able to enter Australia without quarantine first, once Australia has finalised the arrangement for their entry. 

Other travellers from Singapore would not be able to travel to Australia until a later stage, the authority added. 

The announcement follows Australia prime minister Scott Morrison’s statement last week that a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries could be established soon, with a focus on vaccinated students and business travellers, before opening it up to tourists.

Speaking to the media during a virtual conference on Tuesday, Transport Minister S Iswaran noted that Switzerland is already open to fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore, and so the travel lane scheme with Switzerland will help restore quarantine-free travel between both countries. 

“This move will also widen our vaccinated travel lane network in Europe, and provide greater flexibility for those traveling to and from the region,” he said. 

For Switzerland, travellers from Singapore who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months need only to show an entry form and their vaccination certificate on arrival, the Swiss government’s website Travelcheck states.

These travellers are exempted from taking any Covid-19 tests when entering Switzerland.

Singapore has already established similar arrangements with Brunei, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Children aged 12 years and below who are not vaccinated will also be allowed to travel on the scheme as long as they are accompanied by a traveller who meets the requirements, CAAS added. 

The authority will also increase the present quota for the travel lane to 4,000 travellers daily, up from the current cap of 3,000. This change will take effect on Nov 8, in line with the start of the Australia’s and Switzerland’s arrangements.

“We will monitor the progress of the scheme closely before deciding on any further increases in capacity.”

Update on countries on the scheme 

More than 15,000 travellers have been issued passes under the scheme as of Oct 25.

The figures exclude travel passes for South Korea travellers, as the scheme will only begin from Nov 15 onwards.

In total, 5,134 vaccinated travel pass holders have entered Singapore via the travel lane as of Oct 25.

Giving an update on the scheme with these countries, Mr Iswaran said that so far, there have been five confirmed imported cases of Covid-19.

Asked about the effectiveness of the scheme, given that the number of travellers entering Singapore through this so far is much lower than the daily quota provided, Mr Iswaran said that the scheme should not be assessed based on these numbers. 

“What is perhaps even more important than the numbers is the confidence in air travel being safe,” he said. This would include confidence in the airlines, the airports and other stakeholders “along the value chain”. 

He added: “The tourism and travel industry have been very adaptable And I think they, too, will accept and understand that it is more important that we do this well and safe, than to do this fast. We do want to scale up, but we want to do that in a manner that is safe and with confidence.”

Expansion to Australia and Switzerland

CAAS said that the successful implementation of the scheme so far has given it the experience and confidence to extend it to more countries. 

“We will continue to do so in a cautious and step-by-step manner without compromising public health,” it said, adding that both Australia and Switzerland are in Category II of the Ministry of Health’s border controls classification.

This means that both countries have similar or lower Covid-19 incidence rates than Singapore and the other countries that are part of the arrangement.

Australia has yet to announce nationwide arrangements for Singapore visa class holders, though it now allows fully vaccinated Australia citizens, permanent residents and their families to return to Australia without quarantine. 

Morrison had said that Australia was in the final stages of concluding such an arrangement for Singapore travellers.

Asked if there are any prerequisites that both Singapore and Australia have to fulfil in order for students, business and, eventually, all travellers from Singapore to be able to fly to Australia, Mr Iswaran said that there were no specific requirements set. 

“We have not set a specific threshold number in terms of infections and so on, in order to then say whether once this threshold is exceeded, then we will have to change the scheme and so on,” he said. “We need to take cognisance of what is developing in the partner country, but also in Singapore, and then work (out) our schemes accordingly.” 

He added that Singapore has “a variety of levers” that it uses to “calibrate the risk” of opening up travel lanes, such as vaccination and testing requirements. 

“The testing requirements can change (and) the numbers can be throttled up or down, depending on the circumstances, and in the extreme, we may even need to consider suspension.” — TODAY

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