If you’re planning to travel to Singapore, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In June 2021, three government ministers who are members of the country’s Covid-19 called for Singapore to abandon the “zero Covid” strategy in favor of a more progressive approach.
“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away. The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst,” Singapore’s Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, wrote in an op-ed.
Under this plan, the government would continue to track and log Covid cases the same way it does with other diseases like influenza, with some people being allowed to recuperate from mild cases at home.
The key? Widespread vaccination. The country’s rollout program has been successful, with about two-thirds of citizens expected to have gotten at least one shot by the end of July.
Be aware that Singapore takes its pandemic-control regulations very seriously and is not afraid to enforce them. Quarantine violations carry a penalty of a fine of up to S$10,000 ($7,565), up to six months in jail, or both.
What’s on offer
The quintessential modern Asian city, Singapore’s glittering skyscrapers and waterside setting make it easy to love. Throw in some of the world’s best street food, served in its ubiquitous hawker centers, and the lush rainforest of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the city-state has more than enough to satisfy fascinated tourists.
Who can go
Currently, entry is largely limited to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, but that is slowly changing.
But under its Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) scheme, visitors from a handful of countries will soon be able to enter Singapore without having to quarantine.
Singapore already opened up four “green lanes” for fully vaccinated travelers from Hong Kong, Macao, Brunei and Germany, beginning September 8.
And from October 19, fully vaccinated travelers from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States will also be able to enter Singapore.
South Korea and Singapore will launch mutual “vaccinated travel lanes” on November 15. Fully vaccinated travelers between the two countries will be required to show proof of a negative PCR test but will not have to quarantine.
Travelers from these places must apply for an Air Travel Pass online before flying to Singapore.
Eligible visitors will need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of the scheduled flight and will have to take another one upon arriving at Changi Airport. On days three and seven of their stay, they will need to test again at a designated clinic in Singapore.
What that means, though, is no quarantine or stay-at-home order.
This is a significant step in Singapore’s long-term strategy to live with Covid and re-open its borders.
A list of government-approved clinics for Covid-19 tests is here.
What are the restrictions?
Singapore nationals and permanent residents are allowed to enter, but must have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure and spend 14 days in quarantine after being served a stay-home notice (SHN) on arrival. This can be undertaken in a dedicated SHN facility, or at their place of residence.
The city-state has announced that it will accept the IATA digital travel pass, colloquially called a vaccine passport, from May 2021. This pass will store data confirming that a traveler has received the Covid-19 vaccination from an accredited laboratory. As the pass is still in the planning stages, Singapore has not released more details about whether holders will be able to skip or shorten quarantine or have other benefits.
Those traveling from countries with an Air Travel Pass agreement must apply for entry here between seven and 30 days before departure and submit health details and all travel movements over the previous 14 days via a SGArrivalCard. They must also download the Trace Together app to their mobile device and pay for an on-arrival PCR test, at a cost of SGD$196 (US $148). This applies to all travelers aged six and over.
As of January 24, anyone entering Singapore for any reason will get a rapid Covid-19 test upon arriving at the airport. And as of January 31, all travelers will have to prove they have travel insurance that can cover at least $30,000 in expenses if necessary.
Layover passengers are permitted in specific areas of the airport. They are not allowed to leave these designated areas unless they have a confirmed booking for one of Changi’s two airport hotels, and if going there they must be accompanied by an airport staff member.
What’s the Covid situation?
On June 9, the country notched its 34th death from the virus, which marked a grim milestone: the number of Covid deaths in Singapore officially passed those of the SARS epidemic in 2003.
Singapore is slowly coming out of a phase 2 “heightened alert” period from August 10. During this period, groups can consist of up to five people, although the unvaccinated are urged to remain in groups of two only. Households can have up to five outside visitors per day, social gatherings are permitted, funerals may have a maximum of 30 attendees and up to 50 percent of employees can work from the office.
Singapore notched 910 cases on September 16, its highest single-day case load since May 2020. Two nursing homes and a worker dormitory had clusters of the disease.
As of October 8, Singapore has recorded 116,864 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 136 deaths. The same week, the city-state crossed the vital 80% adult vaccination mark.
What can visitors expect?
All visits must be registered either through the Singapore government’s Safe Entry and Trace Together apps or by using a Trace Together token, which are available from community centers. Alcohol is not available in restaurants after 10.30 p.m.
Masks must be worn at all times when in public, except by those under six. There are exemptions for eating and exercising.
Our recent coverage
The travel bubble with Hong Kong may have been delayed, but Singapore residents have been enjoying “cruises to nowhere” in 2020. The city-state is of course known for its food, and has featured in our lists of the world’s 50 best dishes and 50 best desserts.
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Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Lilit Marcus contributed to this report