Singapore tightens border measures to reduce Omicron risk
VTL scheme will not be expanded; easing of social measures will also be paused
All air travellers entering Singapore will be subject to more stringent testing, as border measures are tightened to buy time to better understand the new Covid-19 Omicron variant.
The stricter rules, including additional supervised Covid-19 tests for vaccinated travel lane (VTL) travellers, take effect from 11.59pm tomorrow.
Borders will remain open, but the quarantine-free travel scheme will not be expanded for the moment. The relaxation of social measures will also be paused.
These new steps will minimise the risk of importing the variant, though it is just a matter of time before it arrives here, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.
The Government will also enhance testing protocols to detect Omicron cases and adopt stricter procedures for suspected cases.
Mr Gan, who co-chairs the multi-ministry Covid-19 task force, said yesterday: "We must be prepared to further adjust our measures, if necessary, to ensure the situation remains under control before we continue on our reopening journey."
The Omicron variant has already spread to at least 16 countries, after it was identified in South Africa last week. The World Health Organisation has deemed the variant as having a "very high" global risk. No cases have been detected locally yet.
Air travellers will face tighter curbs. Those arriving on the quarantine-free VTL scheme will have to undergo antigen rapid tests (ARTs) at a quick test centre on day three and day seven of their arrival. Currently, they just take a swab test before departing for Singapore and on arriving here.
All air travellers entering, transferring or transiting through Singapore - even those from places deemed the safest - must test negative before departure. All air travellers, whether travelling on VTLs or otherwise, must also take a PCR test on arrival.
These tightened restrictions will be in place for four weeks and may be extended, if necessary.
Travellers must self-isolate at home, in a hotel room or at a designated stay-home notice facility - depending on where they came from - while waiting for their on-arrival test result.
MOH said it will also conduct a one-time PCR testing exercise for surveillance purposes, for travellers who arrived in Singapore between Nov 12 and Nov 27, and had been to the countries or regions affected by Omicron in the 14 days before their arrival here.
"We are introducing a set of measures that serves as a strong yet reasonable response to the new variant to protect our local community," said MOH.
After the VTLs with Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey kick in around the middle of this month, no more VTLs will be launched, for the moment.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, also a co-chair of the Covid-19 task force, urged the public to continue to get their Covid-19 vaccination and booster shots as a "valuable insurance against a big unknown confronting the world".
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