If you’re planning to travel to India from Singapore, or via Singapore in the new year, here’s some bad news: India has decided to reimpose mandatory pre-departure PCR testing on Singapore and five other Asian countries, effective 1 January 2023.
RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for flyers coming from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand from 1st January 2023. They will have to upload their reports on the Air Suvidha portal before travel.
— Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya) December 29, 2022
This was announced yesterday to some significant confusion, not least because the High Commission of India in Singapore came out to rubbish the initial reports, suggesting that sources were “erroneously citing incorrect information”.
However, the official guidelines by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have now been published, and it includes Singapore as clear as day.
India reinstates pre-departure PCR testing for selected countries
From 10 a.m IST on 1 January 2023, travellers arriving in India from the following countries will need to present a negative pre-departure PCR test, taken within 72 hours of departure to India.
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
The requirement applies regardless of vaccination status. Children under 12 years of age are exempt from pre-departure testing.
The Indian authorities have clarified that the rule also affects those who are merely transiting in these countries en route to India.
Negative results must be uploaded on the Air Suvidha portal, along with a declaration of one’s 14-day travel history.
In addition to pre-departure testing, India recently reinstated a system of randomised on-arrival testing that covers 2% of international arrivals, regardless of country. Such passengers will be identified by the airline. They will provide a sample on arrival at the airport and can leave immediately thereafter, without having to wait for a negative result.
Why is this happening?
India dropped pre-departure PCR testing for arrivals from Singapore in February 2022, and just last month scrapped vaccination requirements, arrival forms and mandatory mask wearing for all flights. Why reinstate the requirement now, and why Singapore?
While we’ll never know for sure, all signs point to China’s reopening on 8 January 2023. And yes, Singapore isn’t part of China (though back in the 90s many of my magazines from the USA saw fit to add “Singapore, China” to the end of my mailing address), but it together with the other affected Asian countries are popular destinations for Chinese travellers.
Other countries like Italy, Malaysia, Japan and the USA have announced pre-departure test requirements for travellers from China, but India is going one step further by testing individuals from countries that Chinese like to visit!
How much does a PCR test cost?
A pre-departure PCR test in Singapore will cost at least S$50 per person, based on my most recent checks back in July 2022.
A full guide to pre-departure testing in Singapore, including costs, turnaround times and less invasive non-nasal options can be found below.
It figures that just a few days ago, in my recap of the top 10 MileLion articles of 2022, I mentioned this article and how relieved I was not to have to update it anymore. Fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx it.
With Hong Kong and even China discontinuing testing requirements, I was hoping 2023 would be the year we’d see it disappear altogether for Singaporeans.
India, unfortunately, has other plans. From 1 January 2023, a negative pre-departure PCR test result will be required for Singaporeans once again, adding cost and inconvenience to travel plans.
One hopes this won’t have a cascading effect a la 2020, where governments go all lemmings style and follow the leader in imposing testing requirements that may or may not be based in science.