In a Multi-Ministry Task Force Press Conference on 16 February, Transport Minister S Iswaran announced that there will be more Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) opening up to Hong Kong and other regions.
Thus far, most of the VTLs show a trend of expanding outwards in the Asia region first, and the government intends to steadily increase the VTL quotas
The local authorities state that the simplification of border measures is part of a “pivot” of the country’s travelling policies, after considering the state of the pandemic and the necessity to open up travelling and the economy once more.
Readiness to Open the Vaccinated Travel Lanes
In Transport Minister S Iswaran’s words, VTLs are meant to allow quarantine-free travel to those who are fully vaccinated, and they were set up “as a pathfinder to establish, test and build confidence in reopening safely”.
Some of the VTLs were supposed to be launched in late 2021, but they were put off due to the rise of Omicron cases overseas.
For similar reasons, Singapore had cut down the number of VTL travellers entering the country as well.
However, now that there are greater assurances and understanding over the nature of the dominant Omicron strain and its associated public health risks, the Transport Minister thinks that it is important to shift the country’s travelling policies towards resuming the safe reopening of Singapore’s borders and “reclaim our position as a global business and aviation hub”.
After all, being the small city-state that Singapore is, we have always been reliant on investments, imports, and exports to keep the island’s economy afloat; the government’s decided trajectory makes sense, economy-wise.
Therefore, you can expect to see a gradual and cautious increase in quotas for VTL travellers, as well as news of more VTLs launching until the country has ultimately reached pre-pandemic conditions.
Honestly, the notion alone feels like a fever dream after three years of dealing with COVID-19.
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The Launching Vaccinated Travel Lanes
A new VTL to Hong Kong, as well as the previously postposted VTLs with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will be launched simultaneously.
Vaccinated Travel Passes (VTP) application for travel for these four countries and regions will open at 10am on 22 February.
The first VTL flights from these places will take off on 25 February.
As for the current unilateral opening arrangement for Hong Kong, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced in a separate meeting that applications for short-term visitors for the Air Travel Pass (ATP) will halt from 11:59pm on 17 February.
For people who have travelling histories to Hong Kong and are holding onto a valid ATP, they will be allowed to enter Singapore up until 11:59pm on 24 February with those passes.
The main impetus for launching a unilateral VTL with Hong Kong is the need to maintain connectivity for business reasons and for interpersonal relationships, Mr Iswaran stated.
Secondly, a two-way quarantine-free sea travel between Singapore and Indonesia will resume with the opening of the VTL (Sea) from Bintan and Batam.
The establishment of the small travel bubble to these island resorts is to encourage tourism and “facilitate short-term leisure travel”, said the Ministry of Health.
The first ferry trips to the two resort islands in Indonesia will begin at 10am on 22 February and set sail on 25 February.
Up to 350 VTL travellers will be allowed onto Batam and Bintan weekly.
Additionally, CAAS also announced its decision to “deepen the VTL” for Thailand beyond Bangkok, and it intends to include flights from all cities in the Southeast Asian region.
Airlines that plan to operate from more cities from Thailand under the VTL may submit their plans for designated flights to CAAS to obtain the green light.
In the same vein of opening up the Asia region, new two-way quarantine-free VTLs for Israel and the Philippines are in the midst of preparations.
Travellers from these countries may enter Singapore via the VTL on or after 4 March, with VTP applications for these two countries opening on 1 March.
Lifting Previous Vaccinated Travel Lane Restrictions
On 4 March, the government has also declared that 50% cap on air travelling will be lifted.
Instead, the quota for Air VTLs will be raised from 5,000 to 15,000 on 4 March.
For the two-way VTL between Singapore and Malaysia, the previous quota numbers prior to the Omicron surge will also be restored.
If you’re interested in taking a much-needed vacation to any of these places, or have business and personal reasons to attend to, it’s best you keep your eyes peeled on the VTP websites on the specific dates and timings.
Otherwise, the passes might just be snatched from right under your fingers.
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