singapore tightens travel borders

The new protocols include on-arrival PCR tests for all travellers, additional antigen rapid tests ART for VTL travellers, enhanced management of confirmed/suspected Omicron cases, and more.

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) will enhance its testing protocols for travellers arriving in Singapore after 2 December 2021, 2359 hours. This is part of efforts to step up the detection and containment of Omicron, a potentially more contagious COVID-19 variant, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) said on Tuesday (30 November 2021).

The protocols are as follows:

  • On-arrival COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for all travellers, and additional antigen rapid tests (ART) for travellers on vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs);
  • One-off surveillance testing exercise for travellers who arrived from affected countries/regions in the past two weeks;
  • PCR Rostered Routine Testing (RRT) for affected border frontline workers, and
  • Enhanced management of confirmed and suspected Omicron cases.

"These enhanced measures will apply for four weeks in the first instance, and will be reviewed and extended if necessary," MTF shared.

PCR and ART

With that, all air travellers entering or transferring/transiting through Singapore, after 2 December, 2359 hours, from Category I countries/regions, must:

  • Undergo a pre-departure test (PDT) within two days of their departure for Singapore and obtain a negative result.

As for travellers entering Singapore from Category II [non-Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL)], III and IV countries, they must:

  • Undergo a PCR test on arrival.

"Either a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test or a professionally administered ART result will be accepted as a valid PDT for countries/regions in Category I – III. Only RT-PCR test results will be accepted as a valid PDT for Category IV countries/regions," MTF noted.

Air travellers on the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL-Air), who arrived after the cut-off date and time (2 December 2021, 2359 hours), will also have to:

  • Undergo additional supervised self-administered ART at a Quick Test Centre on days three and seven of their arrival.

Regarding the VTL between Singapore and Malaysia, the Taskforce shared that separate measures will apply to VTL travellers via land links with Malaysia—they will be subject to an on-arrival ART only.

One-off surveillance testing exercise

In addition to the aforementioned, the Taskforce added that the Ministry will also be conducting a one-time surveillance PCR testing exercise for travellers who arrived between 12 and 27 November 2021, and had travelled to the countries/regions affected by Omicron in the 14 days before their arrival in Singapore.

Those who are involved in the testing exercise would have been notified of their scheduled test time and venue.

[ALSO READ: Border measures tightened for those entering Singapore from some Cat IV countries owing to Omicron risks]

PCR RRT for border frontline workers

From 2 December 2021, as an added precautionary measure, the Taskforce will also implement a weekly PCR RRT for airport and other border frontline workers who may come into contact with travellers from countries/regions affected by the Omicron variant.

For aircrew serving flights from these countries, they will be subject to:

  • An on-arrival PCR test, and
  • A post-arrival PCR tests on Days 3 and 7 following each flight duty.

Other airport and border frontline workers will continue with ART-based RRT. As an added precaution, such individuals presenting a positive ART will have to go for a confirmatory PCR test. All border frontline workers, including recovered persons, will need to undergo the RRT.

Enhanced management

As the concluding measure of MTF's latest testing protocols, the Taskforce said that individuals who are confirmed or suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant will not be allowed to undergo home recovery. They will instead be conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for isolation and management.

MTF added: "We will also conduct full contact tracing for these cases to identify their close contacts, place them on a 10-day quarantine at Government Quarantine Facilities instead of allowing self-isolation at home, and conduct PCR testing at the start and at the end of their quarantine."

On that note, the Taskforce urged all residents of Singapore are advised to defer all travel to higher risk countries/regions, that include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe until further notice.

Apart from the above, in his opening speech at the MTF's conference yesterday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung announced that in light of the new variant, all new VTLs and relaxations on social measures will be frozen. "This is a prudent thing to do for now when we are faced with a major uncertainty," he explained.

This follows the MTF's earlier announcement on 28 November that the VTLs with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will be deferred until further notice. They were originally set to launch on 6 December 2021.


Image / Ministry of Health

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