Fully vaccinated travellers from places in the General Travel category will no longer have to apply for a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) pass before entering Singapore, as announced on 24 March, following a national address by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Speaking to the press, Transport Minister S Iswaran announced the streamlining of border and travel processes following the PM’s announcement of easing of restrictions in Singapore starting 29 March.
VTL update: Singapore takes step towards normalcy
Lee’s comment on travel
In his address, the Prime Minister said that cross-border travel will ease “substantially” with the Omicron situation “well under control”.
Lee said that simplified Vaccinated Travel Framework will allow Singaporeans travel abroad “almost like before COVID-19” while testing and quarantine requirements for travellers will be “drastically” streamlined.
“This will reconnect Singapore with the world. It will give a much-needed boost to businesses, particularly the tourism sector, and help Singapore reclaim its position as a business and aviation hub,” he said.
Yet Lee underlined that the decisions on cross-border travel and domestic changes “stop short of a complete opening up”.
“We remain watchful because COVID-19 may yet bring further surprises,” he cautioned.
Accordingly, there will be no more VTL flights or ferries for those coming via air or sea from General Travel category places. As per the plan, fully vaccinated travellers can take any flight or ferry to Singapore to be accorded quarantine free treatment upon arrival.
There will be no on-arrival test for them, informed Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Pre-departure tests will also be removed for land travel but for now travellers coming via air or sea will need to submit a negative pre-departure test result taken within two days of departure for Singapore.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said that all existing VTLs and unilateral opening arrangements will be removed from 1 April.
Changes made to COVID-19 restrictions in the country
Group gatherings in Singapore will be doubled to 10 and wearing of masks will become optional outdoors starting 29 March, Prime Minister Lee announced in his address.
The decision follows a dip in COVID-19 cases and high vaccination levels with around 95 percent of eligible Singaporeans fully inoculated and 71 percent receiving a booster dose.
Lee said that the plan is part of the country’s “decisive step forward” towards living with COVID-19.
“Crucially, our healthcare system remains resilient,” said the Prime Minister. “It was under considerable stress at the peak of the Omicron wave, but it held up. The load is still heavy, but the pressure is now easing.”
Singapore is bringing in more changes besides the optional mask wearing outdoor and increased gathering.
These include areas involving workplaces and events.
Starting 29 March, 75 percent of employees who can work from home will be able to return to workplaces. Similarly, the capacity limit of events with over 1000 people will be increased to 75 percent.
Some rules that remain in place include mandatory mask wearing when indoors and safe distancing measures of 1 metre between groups not wearing masks.
Ease of restrictions for food and beverage outlets
The new rules are set to help food and beverage outlets. Groups of 10 vaccinated people will be allowed to dine-in at the outlets. The Ministry of Health (MOH) said that the rules also extend to hawker centres and coffee shops where full checks on vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) are implemented at their entrances.
“To ease the operational burden for F&B operators, we will allow all F&B establishments to seat smaller groups of up to five fully vaccinated persons, without the need for full VDS checks at their entrance,” the MOH in a release.
“Instead, random spot-checks will be done to ensure that only vaccinated persons are dining in at these places, and the onus will be on the dining-in individuals to abide by the rules.”
While live performances can resume at all venues, restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm will be lifted too.
(Main and Featured images: Joshua Ang/@jangus231/Unsplash)