Phase Whatever-This-Is: Implications for travel, staycations, cruises and attractions

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Singapore will tighten COVID-19 measures from 27 Sep to 24 Oct 2021. Here's what it means for your travel and leisure plans.

Singapore will be tightening its COVID-19 rules from 27 September to 24 October 2021, in a bid to tackle a rise in cases. This has been dubbed the “Stabilisation Phase of Transition to COVID-19 Resilience”, though frankly I prefer my own title. 

There’s an inescapable sense of groundhog day, with the country going from Phase 2 to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) to Phase 3 to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), all in the space of less than six months. The last time this happened in July, I wrote that “hopefully this will be the last rodeo as we inch closer and closer towards a critical mass of vaccinated individuals.”

Well, 82% apparently doesn’t cut it, because from Monday we’re back to two people dining and WFH as the default. 

Graphic: TodayOnline

In the meantime, here’s the expected impact on air travel, staycations, cruises and attraction bookings. 

Phase-Whatever-This-Is Measures
✈️ Air Travel 🚢 Cruises
🏨 Staycations 🎡 Attractions

Air Travel

General Air Travel

Temperature screening at Changi Airport

ICA SafeTravel Portal

The latest set of restrictions do not impact Singapore’s border measures, with SHN durations currently either 0, 7 or 14 days, depending on the country in question. 

🛂Singapore Border Restrictions by Category
  Cat. I Cat. II Cat. III Cat. IV VTL
Short-term visitors
Application required ATP Details on ICA website VTP
Pre-departure PCR test
48h

48h

48h

48h
On-arrival PCR test
SHN
7 days

14 days

14 days
ART during SHN N/A
Day 3, 7, 11

Day 3, 7, 11
N/A
Post-SHN PCR test N/A
Day 7

Day 14

Day 14
No SHN. PCR test on Day 3, 7
Cat I: Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan
Cat II: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, Saudi Arabia
Cat III: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Italy, Japan,  Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Cat IV: All other countries/regions
VTL: Germany, Brunei
💉 SHN Measures by Category and Vaccination Status
  Fully-Vaccinated Unvaccinated
VTL No SHN Not allowed
Category I No SHN
Category II 7-day SHN
(home/hotel)
Category III 14-day SHN
(home/hotel)
14-day SHN
(hotel)
Category IV 14-day SHN
(hotel)

The relevant category is based on your 21-day travel history, with the rules of the strictest country applying. For example, if my past 21 days includes Category II and III countries, Category III rules will apply.

Singapore’s latest travel advisory (dated 19 August 2021) states that Singapore residents should defer all travel to higher risk countries including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka until further notice. 

Residents of Singapore who are fully vaccinated may travel overseas to other countries/ regions as per normal. They will be able to tap on regular insurance and subsidies should they test positive for COVID-19 on return to Singapore. 

Germany/Brunei VTL

German travellers can still enter Singapore without quarantine, but why?

The tightened measures also have no impact on the VTL arrangement with Germany and Brunei, which continues as planned. Bloomberg carries the following quote:

The government will continue with plans for travel. Vaccinated traveling pilots with Germany and Brunei have shown that it is possible to travel safely, the officials said.

That gels with what Minister for Transport S Iswaran said last week about the VTL’s promising outcomes so far. Of 900 travellers who entered Singapore in the first two weeks, only one positive case was found, detected upon arrival in Singapore. 

Some are worried that the spike in cases may lead to Germany requiring quarantine for travellers from Singapore. That is almost certainly not going to happen, particularly if you’re vaccinated. Singapore is nowhere close to the number of cases seen in some other countries that enjoy quarantine-free access to Germany. Even in the case of so-called high risk areas, travellers to Germany may avoid quarantine if they can show proof of vaccination, recovery from an infection or a negative test result. 

So your travel plans to Germany are safe, but the real question is whether any German holiday goers would want to visit Singapore with the current state of restrictions. Mask wearing outdoors, no alcohol after 10.30 p.m, no entertainment and max two people to a table? Nein danke.

I recently wrote an article about countries that accept vaccinated Singaporeans without quarantine, in case you’re thinking of getting away for a while (remember however, that you’re likely to face quarantine on return to Singapore).  

Staycations

Sofitel Sentosa Resort

From 27 September 2021, the maximum number of guests permitted in a room for staycations will be capped at two, unless all guests are from the same household. 

Hotel facilities will remain open, with only noteworthy change affecting restaurants where the maximum number of patrons has been cut from five to two. 

Facility Status
🏋️ Gym Open: May require vaccination*
🍽️ Restaurants Open: Max two vaccinated individuals
🏊‍♂️ Swimming Pool Open
💆 Spa Open
*Do note that all the hotels I’ve stayed at recently require guests to be fully vaccinated to use the gym. 

If you’re partially vaccinated or not vaccinated, you’ll have to take your meals in the room.

Pan Pacific Breakfast (Pacific Club) | Photo: Hui Ling

Here’s an idea of what you can expect, based on similar experiences when dining in was now allowed:

Cruises

Royal Caribbean

Quantum of the Seas

Capacity for cruises remains at 50%, and rules follow those on land. In other words, dine-in will be capped at two individuals, gyms and pools will remain open, and activities will take place subject to the regular safe management measures. 

The following email has been sent out to Royal Caribbean guests.

Screenshot: David

Guests whose travelling party is larger than two may contact Royal Caribbean (+65 6305 0033) to reschedule or cancel their cruise in exchange for a Future Cruise Credit (FCC). Cash refunds may be possible, but it appears to be a YMMV thing. 

Based on reports in The Milelion Cruise Society (a.k.a. Sealions), CSOs are not offering the Lift and Shift option, which allows passengers to change dates without paying extra. FCC seems to be the default offer, but you lose out if your new date costs more. 

Typically these tightened restrictions lead to a raft of cancellations, which may be good news for those who like more space and privacy onboard. If you’re intending to continue with your cruise, it might not be the worst idea to take a stab at a RoyalUp bid. 

Dream Cruises

World Dream

Dream Cruise has issued a statement on its website regarding additional precautionary measures for sailings during this period. It’s largely the same as Royal in terms of onboard restrictions, and passengers who wish to reschedule have the following options:

  • Affected guests may choose to transfer to another cruise date or opt for a future cruise credit of the full amount of their cruise (Paid Cabin Fare + Paid Port Charges, as applicable) to be redeemed for another World Dream voyage departing from Singapore between 27 October 2021 – 30 March 2022. Please contact your original travel office or agency by 15 October 2021 for available options (Subject to cabin availability).
  • The new cruise booking fare will be based on prevailing rates.
  • Affected guests will be required to top up the difference for new bookings made with a  longer cruise itinerary or with a higher fare / port charge. If the new cruise fare / port charge is lower, the difference will be refunded via onboard credits.
  • Administrative fees shall apply for any change(s) to the guest name.
  • Please note for affected Genting Rewards members who are sailing using Genting Points or  cabin promotions, please contact our Genting Rewards members’ customer service hotline

Attractions

Universal Studios Singapore

Attractions will keep the same 50% capacity cap as before, so there isn’t anything new here. 

Conclusion

With one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it’s hard to swallow yet another round of tightening measures. That’s especially the case after witnessing first-hand what endemic COVID really looks like in Germany, where regular outdoor life has resumed without throwing caution to the wind entirely. 

We were told first that we needed to buy time to vaccinate the vulnerable, then to vaccinate a critical mass of the population. Now the argument goes that we need to buy time for booster shots. I don’t see where this ends, really, although it seems churlish to complain given what healthcare workers must be going through. 

All I can surmise is that the MTF believes a high number of cases will invariably lead to a greater number of serious outcomes down the line- but if that’s true, then isn’t it another way of saying that cases are really the driving force rather than outcomes? 

I don’t envy the people having to make these decisions, but at the same time I don’t know how much more we have left in the tank for all this. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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ColoradoGuy

I think these “phase” decisions are being driven by political pageantry rather than good scientific reasoning.

I am hoping that they can use this time to refine their messaging that most Covid cases don’t need hospitalization so we can reduce the strain on our medical workers. And also to send a clear message on how to isolate at home when you have mild symptoms.

ZYX

If MTF continues to think this way then it means every time there’s a wave of cases measures will be tightened – then who wants to come to visit or set business?

hmlee

no one will come

Escape

Probably is time to plan for trip/escape to Germany 🇩🇪 for some fresh air and avoid the restrictions.

time to open soon!?

There are so many ways to skin this. People compare to how parts of Europe are almost back to their normal activity, but then forget to get to that level they experienced significant death rates. I actually think the problem is the data they are working with is hospital capacity. With all these people going to hospital for their tests instead of going to their neighbourhood clinics, the hospital capacity data will for sure show it’s stretched! The gov needs to tell people to stop going to hospital if they have been vaccinated and have symptoms unless they have a… Read more »

chk

I booked staycay next week and first week November. This uncertainty is very upsetting and depressing. And our PM and MTF should start listening : You are exhausting the trust, faith and understanding of the people here. This kiasi risk adverse approach is not the path to endemic living. When MU or other more transmissible and deadly variants emerge in future, then how? Everyone vaccinated or not, young or old, lock inside homes and sealed up in year 2022, then 2023, and so forth? And….this is a voter who hasn’t experienced Germany current endemic living yet. Footnote: And it’s not… Read more »

Sally Ong

Are there plans to suspend the VTL when number of cases reach a certain level? They need to be very clear on this, as overseas travel to such a faraway place needs planning; they cannot tell you suddenly on a Friday that VTL is suspended from the following Monday, and you’re supposed to be flying off Sunday only to return two weeks later and discovering that that is no longer possible or you’d need to work in a 14-day SHN upon return. And really, why are we still affected by the number of cases instead of looking at the ICU… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Sally Ong
Wee Lin

The only thing they talked about in yesterdays press conference was to extend the VTL to more countries as they are committed to opening up the country.

lala

Just consider suspension of VTL and 14 day SHN as part of your worst case scenario and ask yourself if this leisure trip is worth going despite the considerations? If still yes, then go for it man. IMO VTL is mainly for business travel, not leisure travel. Haven’t we seen the government flip-flop so many times to suit their own narrative, just take their words with a pinch of salt?

Hksglover

I wonder how come HK has only 6 cases as of today when they let people freely roam.. I have loads of buddies in HK who have been hanging out in a group of 10-20 for last few months and still their positive cases remain extremely low… perhaps Sg govt should learn sth from HK govt…?

Wee Lin

Learn how to close all international borders hoping the motherland would show some love and open its borders (which it won’t)? Maybe not.

Dan

I wonder if they might consider asymptomatic cases to be negative? Very curious question how they are essentially covid 0 with all normal maskless activities going on.

JW19

HK is part of China meaning they don’t take asymptomatic as positive. The last I recall we have 97% of the cases asymptomatic here, meaning the likelihood of HK publishing only 3% of actual cases as positive is high. After all the policy is no symptom no swab.

asprino

This is totally untrue. All cases are counted in Hong Kong.

asprino

And the 6 cases all all imported. They have zero local cases for a long time.

anon

very tired alr..

wowza

Call a spade a spade. This is NOT living with COVID endemically. And the constant flip flops are confusing and tiresome.

freedom

Unless you work in healthcare, I don’t think the general public can complain about the measures the government took to ease the pressure on healthcare system.

Loss of a staycation is nothing compare the stress on the healthcare.

Last edited 1 month ago by freedom
Michael

Nobody is doubting that.

The question is why the healthcare is stressed if we had 18 months to prepare for reopening and had plenty of dats from other countries to study.

ColoradoGuy

The MMTF is trying to go for endemic with a Covid zero mindset.

This contradiction is making our healthcare workers who are caring for people who should be self-recovering at home.

Kup

Couldn’t agree more

freedom

18 months, so what? Singapore imports healthcare workers, which we can’t import as much as before. Will local take the jobs and put in 80 hours with lower pay? I don’t think so.

Wen Hui

They should have simply introduced the home recovery scheme upon hitting an 80% vaccination rate. Instead they did it when cases we already spiking and hospitals were already filling up.

JW19

Then don’t mention the word endemic in the press and public, let’s go back to circuit breaker phase 1 for 2 months and see how much good it brought in terms of positive and hospitalised cases. That would have solved all this right…… This is what everyone in Singapore wants right……. The health care workers are the only one in Singapore who is suffering right………

We have had 18 months to work something out to live with this and all we have done is take 2 steps back whenever we went 1 step forward.

Last edited 1 month ago by JW19
chk

I have friends in healthcare though I am not. Unfortunately the government here has not make the right decisions nor planned properly despite saying they are watching what happens in Israel, UK, America, etc. and preparing for endemic living. Firstly, Singapore vaccination rates for entire population is higher than those countries. Just Google to chk that. Secondly, Singapore Phase 2 is more restrictive than what those countries had. And yes, even Israel had tappped the brakes due to rising infections and deaths, and introduced 3rd booster. But with 3rd booster, infection numbers and deaths didn’t come down. So early Sept,… Read more »

Dan

This is exactly it.

J.J

Healthcare worker here. I can vouch that while there is still room to increase capacity, many healthcare workers are feeling the fatigue from both work and the covid restrictions. Even prior to COVID, doctors put in 80 hours of work a week and the rise in cases have pushed our working hours beyond this limit. Contrary to what some may believe, healthcare workers do not like lockdowns or COVID restrictions too. We too, are human beings and treasure social interactions with friends and loved ones outside our crazy working hours. For every restriction that applies to the general population, some… Read more »

SQ Flyer

Thank you for your service. And good points made.

Peter

The credibility of the MTF and 4th gen leaders are at stake. Their illogical flipflopping every month is confusing many. And not forgetting the home recovery blunder that impact a lot of people. Unemployment is likely to go up due to this tightening. A lot of people are really going to be real pissed. I totally lost confidence in them after the latest round of tightening which is going to impact a lot of people.

Joshua Tan

Definitely alot of uncertainties, leading to lots of changes, and quite a degree of pain.

Am not preaching, but just telling/consoling myself that these are all somewhat 1st world problems

Dan

Typically weak flipflopping governance is a 3rd world problem, not 1st. But it is a 1st world privilege that we can keep closing back down because poor countries like malaysia can’t afford it anymore and have given up on controlling the virus lol.

mcduck

Blunder after blunder, someone really needs to go beg his father in law for a job.

Kent

I was under the impression that the quarantine length had been reduced to 10 days? Is it still 14?

George

Very relieved with these measures, mainly because it is now very clear that there is no plan of managing Covid long term, just short term reactionary and unsustainable half baked measures that take us backwards. This gives us clarity that Singapore is not a place to live in and we can now freely and decisively build a life elsewhere. Singapore has completely failed this test and the economic repercussions from SMEs, the mental health problems they are uncesserily creating for people as well as the brain drain that will happen over the next few months, will leave long lasting effects… Read more »

JKL

I blame it on too many locals opting for Pfizer. I was trying to find out the percentage of Pfizer vs Moderna recipients but not able to find it. Moderna has 200mg while Pfizer has only a miserly 60mg. Solid evidence that Moderna trumphs Pfizer with USA CDC citing Moderna provides anitbodies that last longer even after 6months in the highs of 90%. If the large majority of locals which I suspect took Pfizer may have led to a greater no of breakthru infections. Buried in the booster shot press release was a small paragraph which stated that those immunocompromised… Read more »

JKL
Dan

I think you lost the plot when you feared infection numbers. If it’s an asymptomatic disease, it doesn’t matter if 100% of the population carries it.

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