|Update: The Korean embassy has confirmed that the VTL will continue as per normal, with no quarantine required. For the latest updates, refer to this post|
And now, unfortunately, it’s South Korea’s turn. South Korea reported its first five cases of the Omicron variant on 1 December, and the government is reacting by tightening its border measures, effective 3 December.
10-day quarantine now required for all travellers
From 3 December 2021, South Korea will require all international arrivals to undergo a 10-day mandatory quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. This rule will remain in effect for two weeks until 11.59 p.m on 16 December 2021, but from what I understand, it’s highly likely to be extended for the rest of the month.
South Korean citizens and foreigners on long-term stay will be allowed to quarantine at home, while foreigners on short-term stay will have to be quarantined at a temporary facility designated by the government.
The country will also be putting its “living with COVID-19” transition on hold while it evaluates the risk of the Omicron variant.
In case there was any doubt as to whether the VTL would be affected, here’s what the MFA mentioned in its initial announcement:
ROK authorities have agreed that fully vaccinated travellers entering the ROK from Singapore will be subject to the same COVID-19 protocols as fully vaccinated ROK nationals, such as quarantine exemption and prevailing social distancing guidelines.
Fully-vaccinated Korean nationals are subject to the 10-day quarantine, so you can bet there’ll be no different treatment for Singaporeans.
Some people have asked me whether this notice by the Korean embassy means that VTL travellers are exempt from quarantine. The answer is no; this notice was issued on 1 November and simply serves as the basis for excusing VTL travellers from quarantine ahead of the 16 November commencement. It is not related to the latest developments.
Update: The Korean embassy in Singapore previously updated its VTL page with the following notification, but later removed it. Those who have contacted the embassy have been told to wait for further updates.
Update: Singapore Airlines has mentioned that it is in the midst of clarifying the revised entry requirements with the Korean authorities. Sit tight, everyone
What if you’ve already booked your flights?
|Complimentary Rebooking Policy|
If you have VTL travel to Korea planned, you will be able to change your dates without penalty thanks to Singapore Airlines’ complimentary rebooking policy (fare differences may apply). This is valid for all tickets issued by 31 March 2022.
|Date of Change||Remarks|
|On/before 31 March 2022||Unlimited free changes|
|From 1 April 2022||One free change|
Any booking changes must be made before the original travel date (at least 2 hours before departure), or within a year of the ticket’s date of issuance, whichever is earlier. Both dates and destinations can be changed:
- Travel dates can be changed via the Manage Booking function on the Singapore Airlines website
- Destination changes will require contacting Singapore Airlines
If your booking was made through a travel agency or partner airline, you will need to contact them directly for assistance.
It remains to be seen if Singapore Airlines will offer refunds, however. When the UAE VTL was put on hold, passengers were able to claim refunds for their bookings, so there’s a possibility a similar concession may be offered here.
Tightened measures for VTL travel to Singapore
In case you’re already in Korea and planning to head home early, do note that Singapore will be tightening its border measures and VTL testing regime from 3 December 2021 as well.
|VTL Testing Regime|
|Current||From 3 Dec 2021|
|Pre-departure test||ART/PCR within 2 days||ART/PCR within 2 days|
From 3 December 2021, air travellers arriving on the VTL scheme will need to undergo supervised, self-administered ART swabs at a Quick Test Centre on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival (the day you enter Singapore is Day 1).
These must be done by 2130 hours (Singapore time) on the relevant days, and instructions will be emailed to travellers on arrival in Singapore.
There is no need to isolate while awaiting the results of the Day 3 and 7 ART swabs (which will anyways be rather fast, given they’re the ART variety). These tests will cost S$15 each, and can be done at any of the venues below.
|Quick Test Centres|
Children aged 2 and below in this calendar year are not required to undergo Day 3 and Day 7 ARTs. Children aged 3 to 12 must be accompanied by a caregiver, aged 21 years old and above. The caregiver may be required to help administer the test if the child is unable to do so.
For avoidance of doubt, the routine for pre-departure testing before coming to Singapore remains the same. Both ART/PCR swabs are acceptable, and both must be done within 2 days of departure time to Singapore.
Also, there is no requirement that you stay in Singapore for at least seven days between your trips. You are excused from testing if the scheduled time of departure of your flight is before 2130 hours on the day of test.
December is turning out to be quite a miserable month for travel indeed, as country after country tightens its border measures while we wait to learn just how bad Omicron is.
If you have upcoming travel to Korea planned, you should definitely monitor Singapore Airlines’ Facebook page to see if they plan to offer refunds on VTL flights. If your travel is happening within the next 24-48 hours, I’d definitely call up the airline and at the very least move your dates further into the future, if only to buy some time.