Singapore is planning to allow quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated passengers from India and Indonesia from November 29 and will add three more countries early next month as it hopes to reclaim and rebuild the country’s status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity, according to media reports on Monday.
Currently, there are 13 countries, including Canada, Australia and Germany, under Singapore’s vaccinated travel lane (VTL) programme, the Channel News Asia (CNA) reported.
According to a Straits Times report, travellers from India and Indonesia will be able to enter Singapore under the quarantine-free travel scheme from November 29.
In addition, travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be able to enter Singapore from December 6, in a further expansion of the VTL scheme.
Travellers under the VTLs are not subject to stay-home notice on arrival. Instead, they will be required to produce a negative pre-departure test taken within two days prior to departure and undergo an on-arrival PCR test, it said.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Addressing a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference on Monday, Transport Minister S Iswaran said Singapore and India have been discussing the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates.
Since November 12, India has started recognising vaccination certificates issued by Singapore.
This means that fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore entering India will no longer need to undergo post-arrival tests home quarantine, they will just need to self monitor for 14 days upon arrival, Iswaran said.
"Our discussions with India are progressing well. And we aim to resume two daily VTL flights each to Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai by Nov 29. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will provide more details once finalised,” the CNA report quoted Iswaran as saying.
The health ministry has also updated its public health assessment and will upgrade India to Category 2 from November 19.
The Category 2 classification means that a country either has similar or lower COVID-19 incidence rates than Singapore and other VTL countries.
"We are in discussions on the resumption of scheduled commercial passenger services (with India). As today the only flights from Singapore allowed to carry passengers to India are government charter relief flights under the Vande Bharat mission,” Iswaran said.
Applications for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders will start on November 22 for travellers from India and Indonesia, while travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE will be able to apply from November 29.
Returning Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents who are fully vaccinated will not need to apply if they are travelling via the VTL.
In a press release, the CAAS said the step-by-step extension of the VTL allows it to revive air travel safely without compromising public health and will also help to reclaim and rebuild Singapore’s status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity.In 2019, India accounted for about 7 per cent of passenger arrivals at the Changi Airport.