Singapore Defers Vaccinated Travel Lanes Due to Omicron Variant

By Cheryl Wong
Cheryl Wong
Cheryl Wong
December 10, 2021 Updated: December 10, 2021

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Nov. 28 through a press release (pdf) that the launch of the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would be deferred indefinitely.

This decision was made as a precautionary measure to “reduce the risks of importation and spread” of the Omicron variant, which has been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

Vaccinated Travel Lanes

Singapore’s VTLs have been set up to allow for quarantine-free travel to Singapore via air or land.

Depending on agreements made between Singapore and other countries, there are certain requirements for travelers to be eligible for the VTL. Travelers must be fully vaccinated and have acceptable proof of vaccination.

The MOH previously announced that they would be launching VTLs with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE from Dec. 6, but deferred the launch until further notice due to “their proximity as transport nodes to the affected countries of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.”

“As the global situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures in tandem with our roadmap to becoming a COVID resilient nation,” MOH added.

MOH also advised travelers to visit the SafeTravel website for any changes to border measures, “and be prepared to be subjected to the prevailing border measures upon entry.”

Singapore’s Response to the Omicron Variant

Although Singapore has been going through a downward trend in case numbers, there were 2 imported cases of COVID-19 who were confirmed as positive for the Omicron variant on Dec. 6.

They arrived from Johannesburg on Dec. 1 and were isolated upon arrival.

In a press release (pdf) from Nov. 30, Singapore’s multi-ministerial taskforce (MTF) said they would monitor the situation. In particular, they are “looking out for more information on the Omicron variant—its transmissibility, incubation period, and infectious duration, severity of illness, and the effectiveness of existing vaccines.”

They also said that “more studies are needed to understand the actual impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines and treatments.”

Other Enhanced Border Measures

Besides deferring VTLs to high-risk countries, new testing protocols have been introduced for travelers arriving in Singapore after Dec. 2, 2021.

All travelers entering or transiting through Singapore must undergo a pre-departure test within 2 days of their departure from Singapore and obtain a negative result.

Depending on the category of countries the traveler arrives from, the requirements differ. Travelers may take a Reverse-Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test or a professionally administered Antigen Rapid Test (ART) test if they are coming from Category I-III countries, and must only take an RT-PCR test if they come from a Category IV country.

Cheryl Wong