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Singapore has just announced a flurry of updates to its border measures, which are set to take effect from 12 November 2021.

Some major developments: cheaper ARTs will now be deemed valid pre-departure tests (PDT) for arrivals from Category II and III countries (Category I does not need a PDT), plus travellers on the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), we see an expansion in the window to do a pre-departure test from 48 hours to 2 days (this marks a significant difference), and also an upgrade of a host of countries to the less-restrictive Categories II and III, allowing you to perform quarantine from home.

ART swabs will be accepted for PDTs

A major pain point of travelling to Singapore right now is the high cost of COVID-19 testing. From the pilot programmes, this rose to almost $1,000. Currently, Singapore accepts only PCR results for PDTs, and the cost overseas can sometimes exceed S$200 a test. 

Professionally administered ARTs will now be accepted for PDTs (Photo Credit: AFP)

There’s good news though. From 12 November 2021, Singapore will relax this requirement and recognise negative professionally administered ART result as valid PDTs for travellers arriving in/transiting through Singapore from Category II/III countries. This will also include flights from VTLs. 

Don’t forget about the on-arrival PCR test!

Before you rejoice too quickly, do remember that passengers on VTLs will still be subjected to an on-arrival PCR test.

Note the term “professionally administered” requirement- don’t try to bargain your way at the border office with a self-test. This test must be done by a trained professional. It’s still a sunk cost, but one that is greatly reduced.

The results memo for your ART must state:

  • Negative test result in English
  • Date the test was taken
  • Traveller name
  • Date of birth or passport number

PDT window expanded to 2 days

The current regime states that samples for PDTs must be taken within 48 hours of flight departure. For example, if your flight departs at 1800 hours on 20 November 2021, your sample must be taken no earlier than 1800 hours on 18 November 2021.

This has caused numerous logistical issues overseas, where clinics close early, causing you to rush down first thing in the morning on 19 December, and in places with slower turnaround times, may lead to some anxiety, especially you have to buffer time to check-in. 

From 12 November 2021, the window expands to 2 days. With the example above, you could now take your test anytime from 0000 hours on 18 December 2021. As you can tell, this probably gives you a bigger time allowance.

Malaysia, Finland and Sweden added to VTL

We also see 3 more countries joining us on the VTL arrangement; Malaysia, Finland and Sweden. These will start from 29 November 2021.

Stay tuned for this space, because while Singapore Airlines has flown to Sweden via Moscow, Singapore Airlines has never flown a non-stop flight to Finland. Perhaps we will see something like the flight to Vancouver?

VTL transits can now include Category I countries

This always baffled us here at Atas Accountant, because current VTL rules say that your 14-day travel history can only include Singapore and/or VTL countries. This meant you couldn’t transit in a Category I country en route to Singapore, even though these are supposedly lower risk; one doesn’t even need to take a PDT to come to Singapore!

From 12 November 2021, the rule is changed that one’s 14-day travel history may include Category I countries too. You may find more information in ICA’s VTL requirements page, so do conduct your due diligence.

In other words, you can now fly on Cathay Pacific from Singapore to San Francisco via Hong Kong, and return to Singapore within 14 days, still under VTL conditions. However, you must return to Singapore on a designated VTL flight, which means you will have to take the SIA flight to enjoy quarantine free access upon landing in Singapore.

Flying on the Cathay Pacific A350-1000 is an imminent possibility without quarantine restrictions, although only on the outbound leg from Singapore! (Photo Credit: PointHacks)

Countries Upgraded

From 12 November 2021, Singapore will be reclassifying the following countries as Category II: Cambodia, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, South Africa, Tonga, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Vietnam.

Countries moving to Category III include: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kuwait, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

With rumours of a phone call between the leaders of the two countries earlier, Malaysia is moved up to Category II. This coincides with the announcement of a Singapore-Kuala Lumpur VTL, starting 29 November 2021 for air travel only. With Indonesia and Vietnam’s upgrade, there could be more VTLs with neighbouring ASEAN countries.

Here’s the updated list of countries (anyone keeping count how many times it has changed?) by category. This is flexible, so do refer to the ICA’s SHN and Swab Summary page. 

CategoryCountries/Territories
IHong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan
IIAustralia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bhutan, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark1, Egypt, Fiji,
France2, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland,
Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, the Netherlands3, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Rwanda, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain4, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates the United Kingdom5, the United States6, Vatican City and Vietnam 
IIIArgentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, India, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine
IVAll other countries/territories
1Including the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
2Including all overseas departments and regions (DROM), overseas collectivities (COM), overseas territories (TOM), and New Caledonia.
3Including Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and all special municipalities.
4Including Canary Islands
5Including the Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, Isle of Man, and Jersey), and all British Overseas Territories.
6Including the US territories of American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.

Conclusion

It’s more than 2 months since the pilot VTLs, and with the flurry of impending holiday travel, families withoverseas travel plans will be very pleased to learn about the loosened PDTs requirements and window, which will reduce costs from traveling. 

I’m also happy to see that we have more options in travelling out of Singapore, with transit flights expanding to lowest risk Category I countries as well. 

I’ll be sharing more thoughts on these developments soon, so stay tuned!

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