This decision comes owing to "their proximity as transport nodes to the affected countries", in light of the Omicron variant, a "potentially a more contagious variant" of COVID-19.
After restricting incoming travellers from the southern African region, Singapore will be tightening its border measures for those coming from the Middle East, specifically Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) announced. This will see the upcoming vaccinated travel lane (VTL), between Singapore and the listed Middle East countries deferred until further notice, as a precautionary move.
Previously, the VTL was slated to begin on 6 December 2021, with applications for the vaccinated travel pass (VTP) for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders opening on 29 November 2021. This, however, will be put on hold. "We will provide more details on the commencement of these VTLs at a later date," the Taskforce said.
According to MTF, the decision to hold back its commencement is due to the recent reports of a potentially more contagious COVID-19 variant - the B.1.1.529, since termed Omicron. This is in view of their proximity as transport nodes to the affected countries of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Regarding Omicron, the Taskforce shared that scientists around the world are presently working to determine the characteristics of the new variant, comparing its transmissibility to the Delta variant. To date, Singapore has not detected any cases of this variant, the Taskforce added.
Singapore currently has VTLs with the following countries/regions:
- The Netherlands
- Republic of Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Malaysia (both Land and Air)
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