SINGAPORE — Singapore will extend its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme to six more countries in December: Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a media release on Friday (26 November) that travellers from Thailand may enter Singapore under the VTL from 14 December, while those from the other five countries may enter from 16 December.
This latest move will increase the number of VTL countries from 21 to 27. In addition, the VTL quota will be increased from 10,000 to 15,000 travellers daily. According to CAAS, these 27 countries contributed about 60 per cent of the total daily arrivals at Changi Airport before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters in a virtual media briefing, Transport Minister S Iswaran noted that five of the six new VTL countries have already reopened their borders to fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore, while Fiij will also do so from 1 December.
"The VTLs will therefore restore two-way quarantine free travel between Singapore and these countries," said the minister.
Under the VTL, fully vaccinated travellers from VTL countries may enter Singapore without quarantine and just need to undergo COVID-19 testing. Children aged 12 years and below who are not vaccinated will be allowed to travel under the VTL if they are accompanied by a traveller who meets all the requirements.
Travellers are advised to check the entry requirements imposed by the respective VTL countries, which may vary across countries and may change as the COVID-19 situation evolves.
EU DCC certificates
Iswaran also alluded to the European Commission's announcement this week that digital COVID-19 vaccination and test certificates issued by Singapore will be treated as equivalent to that issued by EU member states.
"We welcome the EC's decision and note that Singapore is the first Southeast Asian country to have been accorded such equivalent status. Our agencies are now finalising the technical link up and will issue EU Digital COVID Certificate compatible vaccination and test certificates from the 7th of December."
Holders of these certificates will be able to use them under the same conditions as holders of an EU DCC certificate, which will facilitate travel and access to vaccination-differentiated measures or schemes within the EU.
Therefore, from 7 December, traveller from VTL countries with EU DCCs, even if these are issued in non-VTL countries, will be able to travel to Singapore on the VTLs.
'Building confidence' for land VTL with Malaysia
The long-awaited land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia will launch next Monday, with travellers crossing via the Causeway on designated VTL buses. In the initial phase, 32 designated bus services will enter each country per day, with 1,440 passengers crossing each way.
However, according to media reports and Telegram group chats, many travellers have had trouble accessing the websites of Transtar Travel and Handal Indah, the two appointed bus operators.
Transtar Travel also said that tickets for the next 30 days were sold out 20 minutes after bookings opened yesterday. Its website later announced that it was undergoing "emergency maintenance" due to high traffic. On Thursday night, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said that bus tickets are still available for the first 30 days of travel via the land VTL.
Given the multiple technical issues and high demand, Yahoo News Singapore asked why only two bus operators had been appointed. In response, Iswaran acknowledged the great interest in the scheme and added that the first few steps in the land VTL scheme were designed to "build confidence" by executing it well, rather than speed and scale.
"But once it commences and the experience is gained, then there will be scope to, whether it is broadening the number of agencies involved to facilitate the travel and also whether it can be scaled up further, I think these are the considerations that government agencies will be better able to assess together with their counterparts in Malaysia."
As of Thursday, CAAS has issued 79,335 vaccinated travel passes for travellers to enter Singapore between 8 September and 27 January, and 37,001 of them have already entered the city-state.
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