The Singapore-Australia VTL has gotten off to a rough start, as the new COVID-19 Omicron variant has led New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria (VIC) to impose 72-hour isolation requirements for all international arrivals, effective from 28 November 2021.
The NSW Government has taken precautionary steps in relation to quarantine arrangements for overseas arrivals following the introduction of additional national border security measures by the Australian Government.
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) November 27, 2021
All new vaccinated arrivals and unvaccinated children under 12, who arrive in Victoria from any other country must quarantine at home for 72 hours. Unvaccinated arrivals will have to quarantine for 14 days.
— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) November 27, 2021
This does not bode well for Singaporeans hoping to travel to Australia for their year-end holidays, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that the Australian federal government is prepared to implement this at a national level.
New NSW precautionary measures
Here’s the full list of precautionary measures being taken by the NSW government, effective from 0000 on 28 November 2021.
- In line with Commonwealth measures, all travellers arriving in NSW who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles during the 14 day period before their arrival in NSW must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status;
- All travellers who have been in any other overseas country during the 14 day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours, pending further health advice;
- All flight crew who have been overseas during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 14 days or until their departure on another flight that leaves Australia, consistent with the current rules for unvaccinated flight crew;
- Anyone who has already arrived in NSW who has been in any of the nine African countries within the previous 14 days must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, and call NSW Health on 1800 943 553;
- All unvaccinated travellers from any overseas country will continue to enter hotel quarantine.
(2) is the one that will affect Singaporeans the most, as it means the first three days of your trip are effectively spent in quarantine.
To be clear, the new rules do not affect you if you’ve already arrived in NSW prior to 28 November 2021; you’ll still follow the existing regulations.
Under the current regulations, travellers from Singapore arriving in NSW must undergo a COVID-19 PCR test:
- Within 24 hours of arrival
- On or after Day 6
COVID-19 PCR testing is free in Sydney, even for non-Australians. I did my test at a 4Cyte Pathology Clinic downtown, but it’s also possible to do it at the airport on arrival (at the arrivals level) if you can reach the facility before 9.30 p.m.
Results came back within 12 hours.
New VIC precautionary measures
VIC’s measures are similar to NSW, and also require a 72-hour self-isolation for all international arrivals from 28 November 2021.
Self-isolation can include private accommodation such as a hotel or holiday rental, provided there is no sharing of bedrooms, bathrooms or other facilities with people outside the travelling party. Anyone they are residing with must also self-isolate for 72 hours.
All those who arrive in VIC prior to 28 November 2021 will follow existing rules, namely taking a COVID-19 PCR test:
- Within 24 hours of arrival
- Between Day 5 and 7 after entering Victoria
The introduction of a self-isolation requirement is a hammer blow to Singaporeans looking forward to year-end trips to Australia, but it appears the government is taking no chances.
For what it’s worth, we should know within the next few weeks how serious the Omicron variant is, and if it turns out to be much ado about nothing, then I expect we’ll revert to the status quo.
In the meantime, I’d watch the news carefully, and if you’re scheduled to fly in the next few days or weeks, it’d be good to re-evaluate your plans.