Singapore Expands VTL Scheme to Hong Kong, Philippines, UAE

A quarantine-free corridor with the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan is also being opened up.

A lagoon on the Philippine isle of Miniloc, outside El Nido, Palawan. (Photo: Jules Bss/Unsplash)

The Singaporean government has announced the first new additions to its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme since the rise of the Omicron variant, and will restore quotas on travelers entering the city-state under the arrangement. Originally planned for early December, the deferred travel lanes with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will now start on February 25, with applications for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) opening at 10 a.m. on February 22. A unilateral VTL with Hong Kong will take effect on the same date.

Also being launched on February 25 is a VTL sea link with the nearby Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan. This comes three weeks after Indonesia opened a travel bubble allowing vaccinated Singaporeans to enter via Nongsa on Batam and the Bintan Resorts enclave. In a press release, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said that up to 350 travelers from Batam and the same number from Bintan would be allowed in via the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal each week under the VTL scheme. Returning residents must take a pre-departure Covid test no more than 48 hours before the crossing, and once in Singapore, they will have to undergo a supervised rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival.

Elsewhere in the region, Singapore will be expanding its VTL arrangement with Thailand beyond Bangkok to cover the rest of the country. Airlines planning to operate designated VTL flights from more cities from Thailand can now submit their proposals to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore for approval.

The city-state will then launch VTLs with the Philippines and Israel from March 4; short-term visitors can apply for a VTP starting at 10 a.m. on March 1. Since the Philippines reopened its borders to all fully vaccinated foreign nationals last week, Singapore residents can look forward to a beach vacation in Boracay or Palawan without needing to quarantine on the way back.

Authorities are also streamlining border measures by dropping the enhanced seven-day testing regime for VTL travelers from midnight on February 22, with an on-arrival PCR test at Changi Airport no longer required. Instead, eligible overseas arrivals have up to 24 hours to take a supervised rapid antigen test at any of the 200 testing centers across the island. Pre-departure testing requirements for all transit passengers connecting through Changi will also be removed from the same date.

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