Singapore tightens border measures amid spread of new COVID-19 variant

World Tuesday 30/November/2021 16:59 PM
Singapore tightens border measures amid spread of new COVID-19 variant

Singapore: Amid the rising concerns of the new COVID-19 variant 'Omicron', Singapore on Tuesday imposed a series of measures to prevent the spread of the virus, and also paused the relaxing of social measures.

According to The Straits Times, the relaxation of social measures will be paused, and travellers entering Singapore will face stricter rules from 11.59 pm (local time) on Thursday. On Tuesday, the country's Ministry of Health (MOH) said that while no cases of Omicron, found in South Africa last week, have been detected locally, "per-emptive" measures are needed for Singapore to assess the implications of the new variant. "They will also help to reduce the risk of important of the virus, said the Singapore-based newspaper," said MOH.

MOH said that it will also conduct a one-time PCR testing exercise for surveillance purposes, for travellers who arrived in Singapore between Nov 12 and 27, and had been to the countries or regions affected by Omicron in the 14 days before their arrival.

The new Omicron variant, which has been detected first in South Africa, has escalated tensions across the world as it is considered more dangerous than the delta variant. It has been declared as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organization (WHO).

From 11.59 pm (local time) on Thursday, air travellers arriving on the quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme will have to undergo supervised, self-administered antigen rapid tests at a Quick Test Centre on Days 3 and 7 of their arrival in Singapore. Currently, these travellers only have to take a COVID-19 swab test prior to their departure for Singapore, and after arrival here, The Straits Times reported.

It further noted that all air travellers entering, transferring or transiting through Singapore must have tested negative in a pre-departure test within two days of leaving for Singapore.

Currently, travellers from Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan are not required to take pre-departure tests, and only need to take a Covid-19 swab test upon arrival. These places are in Category I of MOH's risk classification framework, which means they have the lowest risk of COVID-19 infections.

The Singapore-based newspaper noted that all travellers must take a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on arrival. This will affect non-VTL travellers entering Singapore who are not from Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan. Currently, they do not have to take a test upon arrival but have to be tested before the end of their stay-home notice period.

Meanwhile, upcoming VTLs with six countries - Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey - will be postponed. These VTLs were due to start around the middle of December, The Straits Times reported.

Following the emergence of the COVID-19 variant 'Omicron', the United Kingdom was the first to halt flights from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Several other countries including the United States, the Philippines, Spain, Israel, Austria, Morocco have imposed travel restrictions from Africa.

Besides, Canada has also banned the entry of foreign nationals who have travelled to the southern Africa region over the last 14 days.