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Singapore looking to lift quarantine requirements from September 2021 for vaccinated travellers

From September, travel-starved Singapore residents may be able to venture out to some countries and return to Singapore sans quarantine

In parliament today (26 Jul 2021), Multi-ministry Task Force (MTF) co-chair Lawrence Wong, who’s the finance minister of Singapore, said that the government is planning to relook its border control measures for selected countries.

It intends to set up travel corridors with certain countries that have good Covid-19 control measures, and allow only vaccinated travellers to venture out and come back into Singapore with testing measures in place.

This is the full excerpt of what was spelt out in Parliament:

It will start by setting up travel corridors with countries or regions that have “managed COVID-19 well”, and where the infection is under control. 

“So fully vaccinated persons will then be able to travel to these countries or regions without needing to serve the full 14-day stay-home notice in a hotel when they return,” Mr Wong said.

Depending on the risk level of the country they visit, the stay-home notice will be replaced with a “rigorous testing regime” or a seven-day isolation period at home.

This will allow vaccinated people to travel more freely, he said. “Those who are not vaccinated can still travel, but will be subject to the prevailing SHN (stay-home notice) requirements.”

Lawrence Wong in Singapore Parliament, 26 July 2021

Stay-Home Notice the norm since 15 March 2020

Ever since Singapore’s health ministry issued an advisory against all non-essential travel on 15 Mar 2020, Singaporeans who venture overseas have faced a mandatory 14-day Stay-Home Notice, or SHN, upon return. The SHN could initially be served at home, but this was later moved to dedicated facilities (hotels) when the disease proved very infectious. The move effectively killed all leisure travel in and out of Singapore.

With Singapore reporting a 54% vaccination rate today (26 Jul 2021) and due to hit 80% in September, there’s finally some light at the end of the tunnel. The Singapore government has weeks ago announced its shift from a zero-infection strategy, to an endemic Covid-19 strategy where living with the virus becomes a norm.

This strategic shift will also have implications on the reopening of the domestic economy, and more important, on international trade and travel.

Current quarantine requirements in Singapore

Regardless of where you arrive from, everyone landing at Changi Airport will be subject to a Covid-19 test upon arrival.

At present, only arrivals from three countries – Brunei, China (Mainland) and New Zealand – are exempt from any form of isolation requirements. Visitors and returning residents from all other countries are subject to SHN:

CountriesSHN requirements
Mainland China
New Zealand
No SHN required
Hong Kong SAR
Macau SAR
7-day SHN at place of residence
Taiwan, China
14-day SHN at place of residence
All other countries14-day SHN at dedicated facilities

I’m vaccinated and ready to go; where can I go?

Travel hungry Singapore residents will no doubt be searching for this at the moment.

In planning for travel, there are two things to consider:

Firstly, which countries do not need quarantine/isolation for vaccinated travellers?

Secondly, which countries will Singapore admit vaccinated travellers from without quarantine?

In this respect, both Wego and Skyscanner have put up very useful tools to look for the necessary information, but Wego has a slightly more useful map than Skyscanner as there’s a toggle depending on your vaccination status:

Based on Wego’s data, there are two maps you want to look at.

First, if you are vaccinated:

Wego map for vaccinated travellers

As of 26 Jul 2021, a total of 128 countries are open to international visitors, some with testing and some without testing requirements.

Most of these countries are either in Europe or Central America, but do remember to read the fine print – different countries have different acceptance of the wide range of vaccines and testing requirements. Also, bear in mind that these requirements change frequently depending on prevailing situation.

Now to tackle the second question: Which countries will Singapore admit visitors/returning residents from without quarantine?

In a recent interview with The Straits Times, Singapore’s health minister Ong Ye Kung mentioned that they will only be considering countries with high vaccination rates and low infection rates:

“Once a place’s (Covid-19) infection rate is going down, vaccinations are going up and you go below, say, two or three infections per 100,000, we should start monitoring those countries seriously.”

Based on Wego’s list of countries that are currently opened to vaccinated travellers, the data doesn’t look encouraging.

Most European countries that are currently accepting travellers have a pretty high infection rate at the moment. UK and Spain are trending at about 50 to 60 per 100,000 people; most other EU nations including France, Netherlands and Denmark are well above 10 per 100,000 people.

The only EU nation that seem to fulfil the criteria at the moment is Germany, recording only 1.9 new case per 100,000 at the moment.

Should I book tickets now?

While there’s considerable excitement about this development (and rightfully so), is the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble (ATB) is anything to learn from, you should heed the classic adage: hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

This is probably the best time to make some speculative bookings, but make sure you only make refundable/cancellable bookings, and book only point-to-point flights.

Singapore Airlines will obviously be your best bet at the moment. At the time of writing, it has scheduled flights to the following ‘green list’ destinations that are opened:

Southeast AsiaPhuket, Thailand
EuropeCopenhagen, Denmark
Paris, France
Munich, Germany
Frankfurt, Germany
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Moscow, Russia
Barcelona, Spain (via Milan)
Zurich, Switzerland
Istanbul, Turkey
London, United Kingdom
Manchester, United Kingdom
AmericasLos Angeles, United States
New York, United States
San Francisco, United States
Middle East & AfricaJohannesburg, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Dubai, UAE

There are some destinations – for example, Barcelona – that are not feasible, because they have a transit somewhere else. For flights that have a transit stop in a third country, you will need to make sure that your final destination country accepts visitors from both Singapore and the transiting territory.

It is incredibly important to note that the list above are just destinations that are currently accepting vaccinated travellers without quarantine or self-isolation requirements; it does not take into consideration whether you will need to serve SHN when you return to Singapore!

There are also services that some foreign carriers are offering, such as British Airways flight to London, Lufthansa to Munich and some others that you can check out, but the offerings are few and far between at the moment.

Final thoughts

Today’s announcement is definitely exciting for many people, as Singapore work towards lifting quarantine requirements for international arrivals from select countries. Finally some light at the end of the travel dearth tunnel, and I’m sure many other Singapore residents are waiting to book their tickets.

While there’s some merit to celebrating, as with many policies – the devil is in the details, such as:

  • Which countries will be on the list?
  • Will it have ‘snap retraction’ just like how the Singapore-Hong Kong ATB was planned?
  • Are there fall-backs on mandatory quarantines in case the situation flares up in these overseas countries?
  • What testing requirements will there be? Which vaccines will Singapore recognise?
  • What about children who cannot be vaccinated for now?

Again, let’s wait for more details in the coming weeks.

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