Singapore has announced an updated set of border measures, which take effect from 9 September 2021, 2359 hours.
In short, the window for a pre-departure PCR test (PDT) before returning to Singapore will be shortened from 72 to 48 hours, and will be a requirement for Category II countries/regions as well.
Singapore will also add eight more countries to the Category III list, allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to serve their SHN at home instead of in a hotel.
PDT now required for Cat. II countries
From 9 September 2021, 2359 hours, all inbound travellers entering or transiting through Singapore from Category II, III and IV countries/regions must produce a negative PDT taken within 48 hours of departure.
This supersedes the old rule whereby Category II was exempt from the PDT requirement, and Category III/IV could do the PDT within 72 hours of departure.
|🛂Singapore Border Restriction by Category|
|Cat. I||Cat. II||Cat. III||Cat. IV||VTL|
|Application required||ATP||Details on ICA website||VTP|
|Pre-departure PCR test||✖||✔|
|On-arrival PCR test||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|ART during SHN||N/A||✖||✔|
Day 3, 7, 11
Day 3, 7, 11
|Post-SHN PCR test||N/A||✔|
|No SHN. PCR test on Day 3, 7|
|Cat I: Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China (ex-Jiangsu), New Zealand, Taiwan|
Cat II: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, Mainland China (Jiangsu), South Korea (new)
Cat III: Austria, Belgium, Croatia (new), Denmark, Egypt (new), Finland (new), Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta (new), Netherlands (new), Norway, Poland (new), Saudi Arabia (new) Sweden (new), Switzerland
Cat IV: All other countries/regions
VTL (from Sept 8): Germany, Brunei
This adds a potential complication for anyone returning from a Category II country/region. Remember, ICA states that individuals should not travel to Singapore if they:
- Have symptoms of COVID-19;
- Are diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19 infection in the last 21 days before departing for Singapore; or
- Had close contact with any person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days before departing for Singapore
If your PDT is positive, you’ll have to delay your return to Singapore by at least 21 days.
Impact on travel from Germany
The addition of a PDT to Category II countries effectively kills the Germany “loophole”, where some travellers might have found it more beneficial to be ignorant of their COVID-19 status.
I elaborated how that would work in this post, but to summarise, travellers from Germany to Singapore have the choice to travel under the VTL or Category II (aka non-VTL).
- VTL travel from Germany requires a pre-departure PCR test
- Testing positive would mean 14 days of self-isolation in Germany (the lab is obligated to inform the local health authorities), and an overall delay in returning to Singapore of at least 21 days
- Category II travel from Germany did not require a pre-departure PCR test
- Instead of rolling the dice with a PDT, a traveller from Germany might opt to take a non-VTL flight and enter under Category II rules.
- He/she would still have to do a 7-day SHN at home, but that’s arguably better than a possible 21-day (self-paid) stint in Germany
Another unintended consequence was the possibility that an individual might take a self-administered ART in Germany, then decide how to fly back based on the outcome.
If he tested positive, he might opt to return to Singapore via a non-VTL flight, so as to avoid a positive PDT in Germany. He’d likely test positive on arrival in Singapore, but wouldn’t be on the hook for a 21-day stay in Germany.
If he tested negative, he could then proceed to do the PDT and fly back on a VTL flight, avoiding any SHN.
Never mind the ethicality of boarding a plane while knowingly being a COVID risk, or the fact you’d be lying on your Singapore arrival card (one question asks if you are diagnosed or suspected to have COVID-19 in the past 21 days)- the incentive was there, and it needed to be snuffed out.
The addition of a PDT requirement for Category II countries brings the VTL/non-VTL route onto relatively more equal footing.
|SHN||None||7-days at home|
|Flights||VTL flights only||Any flight, so long as it does not transit in Category III or higher country|
|Additional 21-days overseas?||Possible||Possible|
|Available to||Vaccinated only||Anyone|
The main incremental cost of VTL travel is now a single additional PCR test, which I think most people would be willing to undergo for freedom.
However, the Category II/non-VTL route still has some advantages worth highlighting:
- VTL travellers must take non-stop flights, but non-VTL travellers can take a flight with a transit in a Category I/II country and be no worse off. For example, they could take a transit flight through Hong Kong and still qualify for a 7-day SHN on arrival in Singapore
- Singapore Airlines is only releasing Advantage award space on VTL flights, while non-VTL flights have Saver award space
- VTL requires travellers to be fully-vaccinated, ruling it out as an option for families with children under 12
New additions to Category III
In other news, Singapore will be adding the following countries to Category III:
- Saudi Arabia
Fully-vaccinated travellers from these countries may choose to opt out of dedicated SHN facilities and serve their 14-day SHN at home.
|VTL||No SHN||Not allowed|
|Category I||No SHN|
|Category II||7-day SHN |
|Category III||14-day SHN |
|14-day SHN |
|Category IV||14-day SHN |
If the situation continues to improve in these countries, they could be candidates for an upgrade to Category II and/or addition to the VTL scheme. Here’s how each country currently treats travellers from Singapore (source: Kayak)
|Country||Entry for SG residents|
|Croatia||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine |
|Egypt||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine |
|Finland||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine|
|Malta||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine |
|Netherlands||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine |
|Poland||❌ No entry||❌ No entry|
|Saudi Arabia||✅ No quarantine |
|❌ No entry|
|Sweden||✅ No quarantine||✅ No quarantine |
Singapore’s addition of a PDT to Category II countries feels like a step backwards in some ways, especially since Category II measures make no distinction between fully-vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. It would certainly make Singapore residents think twice before travelling over there.
On the other hand, it does resolve a potentially tricky issue with travel from Germany specifically, removing the incentive for individuals to be willfully ignorant of their COVID status.
None of this has any bearing on the VTL per se, although it does change the calculus involved in deciding between VTL/non-VTL travel.