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Singapore

Travellers undeterred despite emergence of new variant Omicron

Travellers from Singapore making plans to visit countries under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme remain undeterred and ready to push on with their arrangements despite the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The new variant has been pinpointed to be behind the recent surge in infections in South Africa. On Saturday, the World Health Organisation labelled it a variant of concern as preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.

Given that there are no disruptions so far to travel routes to Malaysia, Australia, Britain and countries in the European bloc, many travellers and players in the travel sector here are adopting a wait-and-see approach as more information on the variant emerges.

Housewife Ku Xie Mei, 43, is going ahead with her trip to her home town in Malaysia on Dec 7 despite her concerns about the Omicron variant.

"I have not been to Melaka for two years now, and although I am worried about the new variant, I have to visit my mother as she has been diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and liver failure," said Ms Ku, a Singapore citizen.

There have been no reports of Omicron being detected in Malaysia so far, although in the Asia-Pacific, the variant has been detected in Hong Kong and Australia.

Singapore bus company Transtar - one of two bus operators designated to carry out trips under the Singapore-Malaysia land VTL - told The Straits Times that ticket sales yesterday were not impacted by news of the new Covid-19 variant.

Demand for bus tickets has been about the same since last Thursday, the first day that tickets went on sale, a spokesman said, but declined to share sales figures.

Handal Indah, the Malaysian bus company operating the same route, said it has sold 23,000 bus tickets since sales began last Thursday - about 16,000 for trips from Singapore to Malaysia, and 6,000 in the other direction.

Travel agencies here said they did not receive calls or requests for cancellations yesterday from customers due to travel soon. Singapore Airlines and Scoot also said there were no changes to their flight schedules to Malaysia, Australia, Britain or Europe at present.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: NG KENG GENE

coronavirus