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Singapore switches VTL on-arrival testing to ART; reduces travel history requirements

On-arrival tests changed from PCR to ART; travel history requirements shortened to 7 days

Singapore earlier this week announced a slew of changes to the way it manages its Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore, and along with it made some key changes to travel requirements as well.

These changes are largely in a positive direction, including using cheaper testing requirements, and simplification of how it categorises source countries.

Cheaper ART test for VTL on-arrival testing

From 22 Feb 2022, VTL and Category I travellers will no longer need to perform an on-arrival PCR test. Instead, they will have up to 24 hours from their entry into Singapore to take a supervised self-swab ART at one of the testing centres (Combined Test Centres (CTCs) or Quick Test Centres (QTCs)) located across Singapore.

Supervised testing centre

In addition, the current enhanced testing regime requiring VTL travellers to take self-administered Antigen Rapid Test (ART) from Day 2 to Day 7 will also cease.

This change will see travellers save at least S$110 on testing, further lowering the costs of travelling into Singapore.

For those who were originally arriving on or after 22 Feb 2022 and booked a PCR test at Changi Airport through Changi Airport Safe Travel Concierge, you will be given a refund in the coming days, less a S$3 processing fee.

Note that you will be required to self-isolate until you get a negative result on the ART test at the test centre, so it’s best to book early.

No more testing requirements for transit passengers

In another critical development, transit passengers are also no longer required to take any form of pre-departure tests from 22 Feb 2022 if they are transiting in Singapore.

In tandem with the other adjustments to travel measures, CAAS will also be removing the pre-departure test requirements for all passengers transferring or transiting through Singapore. This will help reduce cost, improve convenience and enhance Singapore’s attractiveness as a transfer/transit hub.

The changes will apply to all flights arriving in Singapore from 21 February 2022, 2359 hours (Singapore Time), regardless whether the flight is a designated VTL flight.


Note that this waiver only applies for passengers who are booked on a single ticket through Changi Airport. If passengers self-connect (i.e. booked two separate tickets) and have to pass through immigration, the prevailing rules (whether VTL or non-VTL) will apply, including test and quarantine requirements.

Previously, transit passengers are also required to produce a negative PCR or ART (only for Category I, II and III countries) test taken within two days before their flight. This has posed some challenges for some travellers, given the increasing number of countries – in particular European countries – that have completely done away with pre-departure tests.

With the scrapping of the transit testing requirement from 22 Feb 2022, passengers flying through Changi Airport will no longer need to carry a test result, unless of course their final destination requires it. 

Simplification of travel categories

In addition to the changes in testing requirements when travelling to Singapore, the authorities have also simplified how it categorises countries when travelling to Singapore.

The least restrictive Category I will remain as it is, and continue to enjoy quarantine-free entry into Singapore. Category I countries include China, Chinese territory of Macau, and Taiwan. Hong Kong has unfortunately been ‘demoted’ to Category II.

Similar to VTL travellers, travellers from Category I countries will also no longer be required to take a PCR test on arrival, instead they will also be required to take a supervised ART at an approved test centre within 24 hours of arrival.

Categories II, III, and IV will be combined into a single General Travel category. To this end, the SHN period for non-VTL travel from these countries will be standardised to 7 days, and can be taken at either a hotel of choice or a private residence.

A new category, Restricted countries/regions, will be introduced to allow for imposition of stricter measures where necessary.

Final thoughts

These changes are definitely good developments, with travel to become less restrictive and cost prohibitive.

The switch to post-arrival ART test from the current PCR testing regime is probably the most celebrated change; this alone will result in a S$110 savings, significant when travelling from a nearby country.

However, one key hassle in this new arrangement is the requirement to visit a test centre after arrival, as well as the need to isolate until you have received your negative result.

The simplification of the country categorisation, along with the shortening of travel history consideration (from 14 to 7 days) and the standardisation of SHN period is also another positive move. Travel today has been made complex, so any consolidation is always good news and easier to navigate.

Regardless, these moves are another step to the reopening of Singapore as a travel hub, and opened up even more travel opportunities and options for Singapore residents, even as we continue to inch towards a semblance of normalcy for international travel once more.

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