Singapore lifts travel restrictions to Brunei and New Zealand (but don’t celebrate yet)

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From 1 September, Singapore residents can travel to Brunei/New Zealand once more...but the lifting of restrictions remains one-sided for now.

From 1 September 2020, the Singapore government will lift travel restrictions to and from Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand. General travel will be permitted to these two countries, as well as travel for studies. 

While this is a promising development, and perhaps a first step towards those leisure travel “green lanes” suggested by Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung last week, it’s best to temper expectations for now.

Although leisure travel falls under the ambit of “general travel”, the lifting of restrictions is currently asymmetrical- entry restrictions for Singapore residents remain very much in place for both Brunei and New Zealand. 

No more SHN for travellers from Brunei and New Zealand

terminal 1 arrival

Travellers entering Singapore who have remained in Brunei or New Zealand for the last 14 consecutive days will no longer be required to serve a Stay-Home Notice (SHN). 

Instead, they will need to apply for an Air Travel Pass (ATP) between 7-30 days before their intended date of entry into Singapore. A COVID-19 test will be administered upon arrival, and travellers can continue their activities without restrictions if they test negative.

More details on the ATP application process will be provided by the Ministry of Transport next week, and applications will start from 1 September 2020. By applying for an ATP, applicants undertake to cover their own medical costs should they contract COVID-19 while in Singapore. 

Returning Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Long-Term Pass holders from Bruneil/New Zealand do not need to apply for an ATP. Apart from that, they will follow the same procedures as other arrivals from Brunei and New Zealand. 

Singapore residents can now travel to Brunei and New Zealand (in theory)

Well, not yet, but hopefully soon

From 1 September 2020, the Singapore government will permit the following travel:

  • General travel to Brunei Darussalam and New Zealand. Travellers are advised to check the entry requirements for the respective countries, and take the necessary precautionary measures.
  • Travel for studies for students pursuing academic qualification overseas, and where distance-learning is not offered as an option by the education institution

While this makes travel to Brunei and New Zealand technically possible, it won’t do much good for most Singaporeans, since both countries continue to impose restrictions on arrivals. 

Brunei

The Brunei government has imposed an entry ban on all foreign visitors (non-Brunei citizens/non-Brunei permanent residents), including transit passengers, from 24 March 2020 until further notice.

New Zealand

The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all travellers wanting to travel to New Zealand by either air or sea. As per the New Zealand Immigration authority

New Zealand’s border is closed to most travellers and entry is strictly controlled. All arrivals are tested for COVID-19 and a 14-day managed quarantine or isolation is mandatory. 

New Zealand will only grant entry to individuals who: 

  • qualify as someone to whom the border closure does not apply, or
  • we consider that you have a critical purpose for travel while the border is closed and grant you a visa which recognises this.

As you might imagine, sightseeing does not qualify as a “critical purpose for travel”. IN any case, I don’t think New Zealand will be in too much of a rush to throw open its doors to leisure travelers from Singapore, especially when our COVID-19 numbers are still significantly higher than theirs. 

Subsidies and insurance claims will apply

With the updated advisory, MOH will also update its stance on government subsidies and insurance claims for COVID-19 treatment for Singapore residents who have recently travelled to Brunei/New Zealand. 

Travellers who have complied with the travel advisories will be eligible for Government subsidies, and MediShield Life (MSHL) and Integrated Shield Plan (IP) coverage for their COVID-19 treatment should they have onset of symptoms within 14 days of their return to Singapore and require hospital admission for suspected COVID-19 infection.

It remains to be seen whether travel insurance providers will update their policies accordingly, however. 

SHN duration lowered to 7 days for low risk countries

The Singapore government has recalibrated its border measures based on the updated risk of COVID-19 importation, and cut the SHN in half for travellers arriving from certain geographies. 

No SHN
7-day SHN
(place of residence)
14-day SHN
(hotel)
  • Brunei (new)
  • New Zealand (new)
  • Australia (ex. Victoria)
  • Malaysia
  • Macao
  • Mainland China
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Australia (Victoria state)
  • All other countries

A respite for the Singapore hospitality sector?

Clarke Quay
Singapore’s bars and restaurants have seen better days | Photo: Today Online

Even though the current arrangement is effectively one-sided, in the sense that Brunei/New Zealand residents can visit Singapore but not vice versa, it’s still good news for the Singapore hospitality industry. 

While we certainly won’t see a surge in tourists from Brunei/New Zealand (~153,000 New Zealand residents visited Singapore in 2019; Brunei is not a large enough source country to be separately disclosed in STAN), every little bit helps right now. Hotels can’t rely on weekend staycations alone to stay afloat, while attractions and restaurants need every dollar they can get. 

Conclusion 

Singapore Airlines is currently planning to operate 17 flights to Auckland and 7 flights to Christchurch in September, with no flights to Bandar Seri Begawan scheduled. More flights may be added if the lifting of restrictions results in increased demand, but remember- the direction of travel will be mostly one way for now. 

It may be disappointing to learn that we can’t pack our bags for New Zealand just yet, but take heart. These are the baby steps that must happen before two-way leisure travel can once again resume. 

I’m still holding out hope for leisure travel to selected destinations by the first half of 2021, and I believe we’re now one step closer. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Guest

Should have lift the Covid test requirement together with SHN.

Q L

Inbound pax from South Korea to Singapore still requires 14 days SHN.

https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/updates-on-border-and-community-measures

Dave

Looking at the New Zealand Herald this morning, this news gets ignored. Which kinda makes sense. Who would fly for 10 hours to enjoy the beauty of Yishun or Sentosa? That might help a couple of family members but won’t help overall tourism.

chk

My chat groups initially didn’t realise it is not reciprocal.
Country like Brunei had zero local transmission for 3 months or more? And foreigners like Singaporean’s still can’t enter Brunei and their citizens need to apply to travel overseas.
Wonders what Singapore hopes to achieve with this unilateral move……

Ben

This is almost a totally inconsequential and pointless move. Local sentiment in NZ against opening of their country’s borders is very strong. What the government has done is akin to telling people now that they will waive the extra-territoriality of the corruption laws in Singapore, but before you want to be corrupt overseas, you check first whether that overseas country prohibits corruption, OK?

Patrick

Hey Aaron,

What flight destinations would you currently explore for Q1? Just to start identifying some sweet miles deals

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