Singapore will temporarily freeze flight and bus ticket sales under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) policy from Dec. 23, 2021, to Jan. 20, 2022, to limit its exposure to imported Omicron cases, said the Ministry of Health in a press release (pdf).
Although VTL ticket sales will resume on Jan. 21, flight and bus ticket sales quotas will be cut by half, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Ministry of Trade and Industry in two separate press releases.
Passengers who have already bought tickets for designated VTL flights and buses will not be affected by the new measures and can continue to travel to Singapore under the VTL.
Currently, travelers entering Singapore through the VTL do not have to quarantine, but are subject to a rigorous testing protocol, which includes a pre-departure Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test or professionally administered antigen rapid test (ART) within 2 days before departure, an on-arrival PCR test, supervised ARTs at designated test centers on the third and seventh day of arrival, and submissions of self-administered ART results on the other days within their first week of arrival.
Only eligible travelers can apply for VTL to enter Singapore. In particular, they have to be fully vaccinated with World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use listing vaccines, and must have stayed in Singapore, recognized VTL countries, or Category (I) countries and regions in the past 14 days before departure.
Around two dozen countries are in Singapore’s VTL country list.
Rising Omicron Cases
The new measures were rolled out due to rising Omicron cases reported in many parts of the world.
In the United States, Omicron accounted for 73 percent of new COVID-19 cases last week, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new variant is also spreading fast in Europe. As of last Sunday, a total of 45,145 Omicron cases had been detected in the United Kingdom while Denmark saw a record 13,558 infections on Tuesday, and the Omicron variant is estimated to be the dominant variant, said the country’s health minister on Twitter.
The United States, the UK, and Denmark are all on Singapore’s VTL country list.
On Monday, Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported a possible Omicron cluster in the community. Two cases were preliminarily determined to be Omicron infections while the result for the third case was pending.
So far, a total of 71 confirmed Omicron cases have been reported in Singapore, 65 of which are imported cases.
The ministry attributed the increasing number of Omicron cases detected to the “rapid spread” of the new variant across the world.
“With aggressive contact tracing and ringfencing [protection] measures, we have, for now, been able to limit onward community transmission. But it is a matter of time before the Omicron variant spreads in our community.
“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,” said the ministry.