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Singapore relaxes post-arrival swab requirements; waives tests and quarantine arrangements for recently recovered travellers

Some good news for travellers: Singapore has relaxed some inbound travel requirements, including a relaxed post-arrival testing regime, as well as exemptions for recently recovered travellers.

Singapore health authorities have made two significant tweaks to its border health measures last week, which should make travelling slightly easier. This includes a relaxation of the post-arrival testing regime from today (24 January 2022) for travellers entering the country via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme, as well as some important exemptions for travellers who have recovered from Covid-19 within the last 90 days.

Relaxed self-testing regime from 24 January 2022

The daily testing regime, in place since Omicron first hit Singapore in November last year, will now be replaced by self-administered antigen rapid tests (ARTs) on days travellers need to leave their accommodation. This is a significant improvement from the previous rules, including a daily swab plus two supervised tests on Days 3 and 7.

No more supervised swabs at Quick Test Centres

Travellers arriving on VTL flights and entering Singapore will only be required to complete an on-arrival PCR test (S$125) at Changi Airport (no change), followed by ARTs on days 2 to 7. The actual policy communication is as follow:

“[VTL travellers] will only be required to do unsupervised self-administered ARTs from Day 2 to Day 7 of their arrivals if they need to leave their place of residence or accommodation.”

Singapore Ministry of Health

In addition, results from your self-administered ARTs will no longer need to be reported to MOH via the self-reporting system.

Note that the ART kits are not provided, travellers will need to purchase and use their own kits. If you are travelling or returning to Singapore, note that you are not supposed to go out to purchase them during your self-isolation period as you wait for your PCR test results. Otherwise, these ART kits are available at most pharmacies in Singapore, or available for purchase online from marketplaces such as Shopee or Lazada.

What if I test positive when I do my own ART?

If you test positive from a self-swab and have minimal or no symptoms, the good news is that you can self-isolate at home and no longer need to get a PCR confirmatory test.

Instead, you will follow Ministry of Health’s Protocol 2, as follow:

  • Go home and self-isolate immediately.
  • Stop going to work and cancel your social activities to protect others from possibly being infected with Covid-19.
  • Self-isolate for 72 hours at home or in your accommodation. This will allow you to safely recover, monitor your health and avoid spreading the virus further.
  • At the end of 72 hours, you should perform a self-administered ART.
  • You can stop self-isolation and resume normal activities when you get a negative result.
  • If you continue to test positive, continue to self-isolate and self-test daily until you obtain a negative result, or until 12pm on Day 10 for vaccinated individuals, whichever comes earlier.

Test and quarantine exemptions for recently recovered travellers

One other key development are for travellers who have recently recovered from Covid-19.

Travellers who have recovered from the virus within 90 days of their last infection will be exempted from all testing and stay-home notice requirements. This includes any required Stay-Home Notices (SHN), pre-departure tests or on-arrival tests.

Travellers will need to furnish the following, which must be in English or accompanied with an English translation:

  • A positive Covid-19 PCR test or professionally-administered ART result 7-90 days (for fully vaccinated travellers) or 14-90 days (for partially or unvaccinated travellers) before the date of departure for Singapore.
  • A discharge memo that states the traveller’s name, and at least one other personal identifier such as the date of birth or passport number corresponding exactly with the information in the passport used for entry into Singapore. It should also state the date of infection or the discharge date, which must be within 7-90 days (for fully vaccinated travellers) or 14-90 days (for partially or unvaccinated travellers) before the date of departure for Singapore. The memo must also be issued by a relevant state authority or licensed medical professional.

This is great news because it will allow those who have recently recovered from Covid-19 to travel or return to Singapore after only 7 days, instead of the current 14 days.

Recently recovered travellers can also return earlier than 7 days

For people who have unfortunately contracted Covid-19 just before returning or travelling to Singapore, they may be permitted to depart for Singapore if they test negative for Covid-19 via a PCR test or professionally administered ART at least 72 hours after their initial positive diagnosis, even if it’s within the 7-day period for fully vaccinated travellers or 14-day period for partially or unvaccinated travellers.

However, the full testing and any quarantine requirements will still apply should this group of travellers decide to return earlier.

In any case, our recommendation is still to wait till the 7-day (or 14 days for partly or unvaccinated travellers) before travelling to Singapore.

Final thoughts

This turn of events is an affirmation as to how Singapore has understood Omicron and its management plans within the community.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has come out to say in no uncertain terms that he expect another big wave of Omicron cases to come in the weeks ahead. Despite that, the current travel posture and the most recent changes reflects Singapore’s commitment to keep its borders open as we try to achieve an endemic state.

The biggest news are for those who have recently recovered from Covid-19, with the waivers of all tests and quarantine requirements. This means that there is a lot more flexibility in planning for travel, as well as for those recently infected while overseas and wishing to come back to Singapore as soon as possible.

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