Italy bans tourists from Singapore till 31 January 2022

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Italy has imposed an outright ban on travellers from Singapore entering for leisure purposes, effective 16 December 2021.

Update: In response to queries from CNA, the Italian ambassador has said that the ban may be an error.

“We are writing to Italy’s MOH (health ministry) to ask them to review their choice of banning Singapore travellers to Italy for leisure. I would like to believe it is a clerical mistake or error to refer to Singapore’s removal from the EU list that was published on Nov 9 to make a decision now.”

If your year-end travel plans involved Italy, here’s some unfortunate news.

Italy has added Singapore to its ‘List E’, which means that from 16 December 2021, anyone whose 14-day travel history includes Singapore will not be permitted to enter Italy for leisure purposes. 

Note: If you visit the Italian Ministry of Health’s website, you may still see Singapore under List D. This information is only valid till 15 December 2021 and should be updated shortly.

Transit via Italy will still be permitted, and Italy continues to be part of the VTL scheme, which means that travellers from Italy can still enter Singapore without quarantine (subject to the usual VTL requirements). 

This is by far the most drastic move a VTL partner has taken against Singapore; even when Denmark tightened restrictions on travellers from Singapore in November, (1) it involved a quarantine instead of a ban (2) those able to get their hands on an EUDCC were exempt.

Italy bars entry to tourists from Singapore

Italy has barred entry to tourists from Singapore, effective 16 December 2021

Here’s the text of an update posted to the Italian embassy’s website late last night:

According to the attached Ordinance of the Ministry of Health dated December 14, 2021, valid from December 16, 2021 to January 31, 2022, Singapore and Brunei are in the list E of third countries.

Entry into Italy from these countries does not require any authorization from the Ministry of Health but is allowed only for specific reasons:

a) work
b) health reasons
c) study reasons
d) absolute urgency
e) return to one’s domicile, home, or residence.

Travel for tourism purposes is not allowed, unless you are:

  • Italian/EU/Schengen citizens and their family members, as well as to holders of long-term resident status and their family members (Directive 2004/38/EC).
  • It is also confirmed the possibility of entry into Italy, from List E countries, for persons who have a proven and stable emotional relationship (even if not cohabiting) with Italian/EU/Schengen citizens or natural persons who are legally resident in Italy (long-term residents), who need to reach their partner’s home/domicile/residence (in Italy).
  • athletes, technicians, competition judges and officials, foreign press representatives and accompanying persons participating in competitive sports competitions, recognized to be of pre-eminent national interest with a provision of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) and the Italian Paralympic Committee (CIP) and regulated by a specific safety protocol adopted by the sports organization responsible for the event.

This ordinance remains in effect until 31 January 2022.

To be clear, this restriction is based on travel history, not nationality. 

A Singapore passport holder who has spent the last 14 days outside Singapore (and other List E countries) may enter Italy for tourism purposes, subject to the usual regulations and COVID-19 testing. 

Exceptions

Three types of exemptions have been carved out. Travellers from Singapore may continue to enter Italy for the following reasons:

  1. They or their family members have Italian/EU/Schengen citizenship, or hold long-term resident status
  2. They have a “proven and stable emotional relationship” with someone who has Italian/EU/Schengen citizenship, or holds long-term resident status, and needs to reach their partner’s residence in Italy
  3. Athletes, technicians, competition judges and officials, foreign press representatives and accompanying persons participating in competitive sports competitions

Even then, they’ll still need to serve 10 days quarantine. 

In case you’re wondering, (2) basically means that if you have a stable relationship with your Italian boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll be allowed to enter for the purposes of visiting him/her. 

Why is this happening?

This is puzzling, to say the least. 

Singapore’s 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases stood at 508 as of yesterday. That’s a significant improvement from the situation in October and November, and for now, our “reopening wave” is well and truly on the wane. 

The only reason I can think of is Omicron, and even that seems odd given how the WHO has already said that Omicron is probably present in most countries already (CNA had an excellent piece about countries overreacting to Omicron, which is well worth a read) and Singapore isn’t exactly a hotbed of cases. 

Moreover, Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and has begun its booster campaign in earnest (I just got my third jab a few days ago). So I’m struggling to think of the rationale behind this move, really. 

Entering Italy from a third country

As a reminder, Italy’s restriction is based on travel history, not the country of entry. 

But given the borderless nature of the EU, one of the questions I’m seeing asked online is “how will they know?” Suppose a Singaporean resident travels to Germany, then onwards to Italy- would that work?

Well, leaving aside the ethicality of knowingly circumventing the rules of a country in which you’re a guest, those entering Italy (regardless of transportation mode) are required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form.

One of the questions requires you to list your entire 14-day travel history, and I don’t need to tell you what happens if you knowingly lie on a declaration like this. 

So please, don’t play games. As much as I think this decision is arbitrary and knee jerk, it’s still theirs to make. 

What if you’ve booked tickets?

Singapore Airlines currently operates flights to Rome and Milan

Singapore Airlines is currently the only carrier operating flights between Singapore and Italy.  They have reached out to affected customers to offer a reschedule, or a refund of their bookings with all fees waived. 

Passengers can already make unlimited complimentary changes to any tickets issued by 31 March 2022. 

You’ll should of course check this against your policy wording, but border closures or tightened restrictions are generally not grounds to claim trip cancellation coverage from travel insurance. 

What if you’re already in Italy?

If you’re already in Italy, you can continue your plans without interruption. 

However, if you plan to leave Italy and return later, and your return date is within 14 days of departing from Singapore, you’d be denied entry under the new rules.

VTL flights from Italy will continue until further notice, unless you believe it’s likely Singapore will retaliate and remove Italy from the scheme- but that would be quite unlike Singapore. 

Rome – Copenhagen – Singapore
1 November 2021 – 18 January 2022
SQ353Rome – CopenhagenMon, Thu8:40am – 11:10am
SQ353Copenhagen – SingaporeMon, Thu12:30pm – 7:30am (+1)
19 January 2022 – 31 January 2022
SQ353Rome – CopenhagenMon, Thu8:40am – 11:10am
SQ353Copenhagen – SingaporeMon, Thu12:30pm – 7:30am (+1)
SQ351Rome – CopenhagenWed, Sat8:40am – 11:10am
SQ351Copenhagen – SingaporeWed, Sat12:30pm – 7:30am (+1)
Barcelona – Milan – Singapore
7 December 2021 – 21 December 2021
SQ379Barcelona – MilanMon, Thu, Sun9:50am – 11:30am
SQ379Milan – SingaporeMon, Thu, Sun12:40pm – 7:35am (+1)
SQ355Milan – SingaporeTue, Sat12:40pm – 7:35am (+1)
22 December 2021 – 18 January 2022
SQ379Barcelona – MilanMon, Thu, Sun9:50am – 11:30am
SQ379Milan – SingaporeMon, Thu, Sun12:40pm – 7:35am (+1)
19 January 2022 – 25 March 2022
SQ379Barcelona – MilanMon, Thu, Sun9:50am – 11:30am
SQ379Milan – SingaporeMon, Thu, Sun12:40pm – 7:35am (+1)
SQ377Barcelona – MilanWed, Fri9:50am – 11:30am
SQ377Milan – SingaporeWed, Fri12:40pm – 7:35am (+1)

Flights to Barcelona are unaffected

It may seem strange talking about Barcelona in an article about Italy, but SQ378 operates from Singapore to Barcelona, via Milan. 

In case you’re booked on SQ378 from Singapore to Barcelona via Milan and your final destination is Barcelona, you will not be affected as the rules do not affect transit passengers. 

Conclusion

Roman Holiday? Nope

Italy’s ban on tourists from Singapore comes at very short notice, and I’d be fuming if I were a traveller. 

What’s even more frustrating is that the reasons aren’t clear at all. With cases declining and one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world, Singapore isn’t a likely candidate for a travel ban. 

This is a big setback for the VTL programme, although it was always a unilateral decision by Singapore and subject to the graces of the other country. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Freddy

This may be part of a broader restrictions in Italy. They have also announced more restrictions for visitors from other EU countries and the UK. Maybe there will be more countries added onto List E once the updated full list is available.

Sam G

CNA reporting this could be a “clerical error”

Elim

It’s Italy. All errors are clerical…. 😉

WLKW

Second this. Planning for a trip 3,4 months away carries more risk than planning a trip 2-4 weeks away, in a covid era.

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