Singapore will return to Phase 2 conditions from 8-30 May 2021, in the hope of arresting a recent surge in COVID-19 community cases.
You’ve no doubt already read about the implications for social and work arrangements, i.e gatherings capped at five people instead of eight, 50% of staff working from office instead of 75%, and TraceTogether-only check-ins brought forward to May 17.
In this post, I’ll take a closer look at the impact these tightened restrictions will have on air travel, staycations and cruises.
All travelers arriving in Singapore after 7 May 2021 2359 hours will be required to serve a 21-day SHN, unless they’re originating from a handful of lower-risk countries like Australia and New Zealand. A 21-day SHN is already in force for arrivals from the UK, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
|Arriving From||SHN Duration|
(Effective 7 May 2021 2359 hours)
|🇭🇰||Hong Kong SAR||7 days at place of residence|
|🇲🇴||Macao SAR||7 days at place of residence|
|🌏||All other countries||🆕 21 days in SDF*|
|*SDF= SHN Dedicated Facility. Arrivals from Fiji and Vietnam have the option to serve the last 7 days in their own residence|
Those under the existing 14-day SHN regime who have yet to complete their SHN as of 7 May 2021 2359 hours will be required to serve an additional 7 days at their current SHN location. However, if they are arriving from Fiji or Vietnam specifically, they have the option to serve the additional 7 days at their place of residence.
The increase in SHN duration will obviously lead to an increase in cost, as illustrated below:
|14 days||21 days|
|Single adult||S$2,000 per person||S$3,000 per person|
|Two adults*||S$1,300 per person||S$1,950 per person|
|Minors||Depends on age||Depends on age|
|*Only family members (defined as grandparents, parents, spouse, parents-in-law, siblings or children) are permitted to share a room|
My understanding is that those who arrived under the existing 14-day SHN regime will still be be liable to pay the additional costs, so long as their SHN period remains uncompleted as of 7 May 2021 2359 hours.
Air Travel Bubble with Hong Kong
The recently-announced Air Travel Bubble (ATB) with Hong Kong is still continuing as planned, with the launch date of 26 May unchanged.
While there is an inbuilt mechanism to suspend the ATB in the event of a spike in COVID-19 cases, it should be noted that this is based on the average number of unlinked community cases. For the moment, the vast majority of cases in Singapore remain linked, and the seven-day moving average of unlinked cases was 1.43 as of Monday, well below the suspension trigger of 5.
According to the SCMP:
In response to a question from This Week in Asia on whether the situation in Singapore would affect the quarantine-free travel arrangement, (Education Minister Lawrence) Wong said the bubble suspension mechanism would not change. However, he added that travellers must be “mentally prepared” that the “fluid” situation could change, and the bubble would not start if Singapore reached the threshold before May 26.
“It’s highly unpredictable, there will be ups and downs in our infection controls from time to time,” said Wong.
So it’s a wait and see situation. The authorities are no doubt prepared to postpone the bubble if the situation warrants, but there’s little point speculating at the moment. If anything, the tightening of measures should increase the chances that the ATB can proceed as planned.
Staycations can still be booked and stayed from 8-30 May, subject to general safe management measures.
However, the increase in SHN duration from 14 to 21 days for the vast majority of inbound travelers means that hotel capacity will be stretched. Guests with bookings at Park Hotels, Dorsett and Mandarin Orchard have already reported their staycations being cancelled.
There is no comprehensive list of hotels which are serving as SDFs, and remember, some have been authorized for “dual use”, i.e partial staycation and partial SDF. These will typically have separate towers or wings which allow for those serving SHNs to be hermetically sealed off, such as the Fairmont Singapore.
Gyms are considered higher-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission, and will be closed from 8-30 May 2021. This naturally includes gyms within hotel settings, so you can expect these facilities to be unavailable from Saturday onwards.
Spas will continue operations for the moment, although the MOH has said that further action will be taken should the community case situation fail to improve. All other outdoor facilities like pools and playgrounds are unaffected, subject to capacity limits and cleaning regimes.
On 12 April, hotels received the green light to resume offering buffets. I stayed at the Grand Hyatt last week, and having a buffet breakfast at Straits Kitchen was a welcome return to normality, albeit not quite the same as before. All food must be portioned out and served by staff members, and food displays are protected by clear plastic or glass barriers. Diners must wear their masks when queueing for food, and maintain a minimum distance of 1m from the next person.
These arrangements will continue until further notice, although the maximum number of diners per group will be reduced from eight to five people.
Cruises & Attractions
All scheduled cruises will continue as planned, with capacity still capped at 50%. There was some earlier talk of increasing capacity to 65%, but to the best of my knowledge, it never actually happened- and certainly won’t for the next month or so.
During my previous cruise in March, I actually noticed that some of the cruising measures had been relaxed- there was no more post-cruise swab and it wasn’t necessary to show your TraceTogether app or token when entering venues (although obviously you had to wear your tracelet). I suspect some of this will be rolled back in light of what’s happening.
Update: The following additional restrictions have been added for Royal Caribbean cruises:
I understand imposing a limit of one show per guest to ensure everyone has a chance to see something, but man, people are going to be disappointed.
While a previous version of the email stated that any guest whose TraceTogether app or token flags a possible exposure would be denied boarding, this policy has since been reversed.
Affected guests can opt to reschedule for free, or take a full refund.
Attractions on land will have their operating capacity reduced from 65 to 50%, and the maximum tour size offered by tour operators will be reduced from 50 to 20 attendees. Interestingly enough, according to the STB’s webpage the enhanced restrictions will only apply till 14 May, instead of 30 May like the ones in broader society. It could simply be a typo, or they might be taking it week by week.
Don’t worry about not being able to spend your SingapoRediscovers Vouchers however. The expiry dates were recently extended a further six months from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021.
Returning to Phase 2 conditions after the relative freedom of Phase 3 will no doubt be a downer, but the hope is this will be a relatively short period of tightening.
As Lawrence Wong said at yesterday’s press conference:
“We have more testing capabilities. We also have better contact tracing capabilities, where we are able to move in faster, identify the potential close contacts, and even the wider ring of possible exposures and get everyone tested so that we can more quickly ring-fence the cases and prevent further spread of the virus,” said Mr Wong, adding that he believed Singapore will be able to “snuff out” the current clusters.
“But as an additional pre-emptive step, we are taking this move that we have just described, bringing the whole suite of measures back to phase two and taking a much tighter posture overall. And we believe that if we do that, and if everyone cooperates from now to May 30 or end of May, we have a good chance of bringing cases down and getting things back on control,” he added.
Wear your masks, practice good personal hygiene, get vaccinated if you’re eligible, keep calm and carry on.