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Singapore Suspends New Quarantine-Skipping Ticket Sales to Slow Omicron Spread

Singapore Suspends New Quarantine-Skipping Ticket Sales to Slow Omicron Spread

Singapore is suspending new ticket sales on so-called ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane’ (VTL) flights between December 23, 2021, and January 20, 2022, in an attempt to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and buy the small city-state more time to study and understand variant, while getting more citizens vaccinated and boosted.

The VTL programme launched in September with travellers from Germany and Brunei allowed skip quarantine on arrival in Singapore. The scheme was quickly expanded to eight other countries including the United Kingdom and the United States and has since grown to 27 countries, including a land border bus journey with Malaysia.

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On Wednesday, however, Singapore’s civil aviation regulator said it would suspend new ticket sales for designated VTL flights over Omicron fears. The regulator will, though, continue to allow visitors to travel on existing bookings during the suspension period.

Ticket sales will be permitted for VTL flights from January 22, 2022, but will be capped at 50 per cent of the allocated quota.

“We are picking up more Omicron cases because of the rapid spread of the variant across many countries,” Singapore’s Ministry of Health said on Wednesday. “Thus far, our enhanced testing regime for travellers has helped us to detect 65 confirmed Omicron cases.”

“With aggressive contact tracing and ringfencing measures, we have, for now, been able to limit onward community transmission. But it is a matter of time before the Omicron variant spreads in our community.”

“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted,” the statement continued.

To be eligible to travel on a VTL flight, travellers must be fully vaccinated and take two PCR tests – the first within 48-hours of travel and the second immediately on arrival in Singapore.

Since the emergence of the Omicron variant, VTL travellers have also been required to self-test using rapid antigen tests on days 2, 4, 5 and 6 after arrival.

As an additional safeguard, rapid antigen tests must be completed on days 3 and 7 under supervision at a government-approved test centre.

“In view of the rise in Omicron cases globally, travellers should exercise personal responsibility, minimise their social interactions, and refrain from high-risk mask off activities,” the Ministry of Health statement continued.

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