Sale of VTL tickets for entry into Singapore suspended
Move from today to Jan 20 will buy time to study Omicron and boost defences: MOH
Travellers can no longer buy vaccinated travel lane (VTL) tickets for quarantine-free entry into Singapore between today and Jan 20, as the country tightens its borders amid a rising number of imported Covid-19 cases.
The new rule applies to both air travellers as well as those entering via the land VTL with Malaysia, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced yesterday.
The number of bus and plane tickets available for entry into Singapore from Jan 21 will also be capped at 50 per cent of the current quota.
Eligible travellers who have earlier bought tickets will still be allowed to travel via the quarantine-free travel scheme.
"Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity and getting more people vaccinated and boosted," MOH said.
The move to freeze ticket sales comes as the number of imported cases hit a new high of 67 on Sunday. MOH said it has detected 65 confirmed Omicron cases through its testing regime for travellers.
While Singapore has managed to limit onward community transmission through aggressive contact tracing and ring-fencing measures, "it is a matter of time before the Omicron variant spreads in our community", MOH said.
Mr Daniel Ng, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore's (CAAS) director for air transport, said the daily VTL arrival quota was earlier lowered from 15,000 to 10,000 following the emergence of Omicron.
With the latest tightening, the daily quota will be further reduced to 5,000 arrivals from Jan 21.
As for the land VTL, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said capacity will be reduced to 24 bus trips per day each way.
The VTL scheme allows fully vaccinated travellers from selected countries to enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine. This facilitates quarantine-free travel to countries which had earlier opened up to Singapore.
The CAAS yesterday also outlined additional precautions to protect the aviation community.
First, all airport workers who interact with arriving passengers, including those working in public areas such as taxi stands, will have to don more personal protective equipment. This includes N95 masks and face shields.
Second, all front-line airport workers will minimally be placed on seven-day polymerase chain reaction (PCR) rostered routine testing, instead of the current seven-day antigen rapid test (ART) routine testing cycle.
In addition, higher risk front-line airport workers will have to go through an employer-supervised ART on the third day of their seven-day PCR testing cycle. This will also apply to Singapore air crew.
In a Facebook post, Transport Minister S. Iswaran reiterated that those who have already bought VTL flight tickets and meet requirements will still be able to travel to Singapore without quarantine.
"I understand that some might be disappointed by these changes to the VTL scheme, but it is an essential and prudent measure to protect public health," he said.
"It is crucial that we tighten our safeguards when warranted by the public health risk assessment, to protect the health and safety of our fellow Singaporeans, front-line aviation workers and travellers."
Singapore Airlines and its budget arm Scoot said passengers will still be able to book flights to transit via Singapore.
MOH also said that travellers entering Singapore under the VTL scheme will face stricter enforcement.
All VTL travellers have to test negative on their self-administered ART before going out for activities each day. On day three and day seven of their arrival, they must undergo supervised testing at a testing centre before going about their activities.
H. (2021d, December 22). Sale of VTL tickets for entry into Singapore suspended. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/sale-of-vtl-tickets-for-entry-into-singapore-suspended