SINGAPORE — Singapore intends to allow vaccinated visitors from all countries to skip quarantine on arrival when the omicron wave has passed, authorities announced on Wednesday during a virtual press briefing.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said travel rules were meant to prevent infections from being imported into the country, but that category of cases represents only 1% of daily cases and “no longer have a material impact” on Singapore’s Covid situation.
The focus in future will be on whether visitors to Singapore will fall severely ill and burden the health-care system, he said.
“We should actually emphasize less on SHN and tests on travelers, [and] more on ensuring that they are fully vaccinated and boosted,” he said.
“Instead of having vaccinated travel lanes or VTLs with selected countries that we think are low risk, we should actually allow SHN-free travel for … fully vaccinated travelers from all countries,” Ong said, referring to stay-home notices issued to visitors to Singapore.
“We should make this transition not now, but after omicron wave has peaked and start to subside,” he added.
The authorities did not set a date for this new policy to take effect, but Gan Kim Yong, the minister for trade and industry, said that the omicron wave could peak in a few weeks.
Vaccinated travel lanes
In a bid to reopen its borders, Singapore previously announced multiple so-called vaccinated travel lanes that allow travelers from certain countries to visit without serving quarantines.
But when the new border measures take effect, vaccinated travelers from all countries will not be subject to quarantine requirements.
“Our ultimate goal is quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers,” said Minister for Transport S Iswaran.
As Singapore transitions to a “vaccinated traveler system,” it will first change the way it categorizes countries that visitors are arriving from.
From Feb. 22, countries will be divided into three main groups — restricted, general and low infection. The vast majority of countries will be in the general category and be subject to the same entry requirements unless a VTL has been launched.
No countries will be in the restricted category for now, but countries and regions may be moved there if a new variant of concern is detected, authorities said.
Separately, a health ministry press release said previously deferred vaccinated travel lanes with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will begin on Feb. 25. Authorities also announced that new VTLs for Israel, Hong Kong and the Philippines will be launched.
Singapore reported a record 19,420 new Covid cases on Tuesday.
Over the last 28 days, 99.7% of reported cases have had mild or no symptoms.
The city-state has reported 497,997 Covid cases and 913 related deaths since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Around 90% of Singapore’s population have received two shots under the national vaccination program, and 64% of the population have received boosters.