Singapore is one of the biggest business and financial hubs in Southeast Asia. It is also a highly popular travel destination among people from all over the world. No wonder the country relies on tourism and business travellers, especially from India, for revenue.
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In 2019, about four per cent of Singapore’s GDP or USD 19.7 billion have been contributed by the tourism industry. Out of this, about 1.42 million was earned by travellers arriving from India.
They only required a valid Singapore visa to visit this island country. Given the high-rise medical costs in Singapore, Indians travelling to this southeast Asian country is also advised to carry a valid travel insurance Singapore with them.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented brake on the growth of the tourism industry in Singapore. Just like the rest of the world, the country was forced to close its borders and ban international travellers from arriving in Singapore to curb the wildfire-like spread of coronavirus.
As a consequence, only 2.7 million international visitors arrived in Singapore in 2020 leading to a sharp fall of 85.7 per cent from the previous year’s arrivals.
Travellers from any part of the world can travel to Singapore. However, they are required to take a COVID-19 swab test within 72 hours before boarding their flights to Singapore and present a negative test report at the airport. The travellers are then required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine period on their arrival in Singapore. They will also have to pass the PCR test or polymerase chain reaction test at the beginning and end of their quarantine period.
The quarantine guidelines for Indians travelling to Singapore is more severe due to the deadly second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in India. Starting 23rd April 2021, travellers from India will have to spend an additional 7-days in home quarantine over and above the 14-day mandatory quarantine for all international travellers to Singapore. Travellers from India will have to undergo a COVID-19 test after completing 14 days in home quarantine and again after completing the additional 7 days in home quarantine. These quarantine rules apply to all travellers from India, including migrant workers and business travellers.
Besides, the Government of Singapore has also announced a reduction in granting entry approvals to non-permanent residents or citizens of Singapore from India. The move has been taken in light of the growing number of COVID-19 cases as well as the emergence of a double mutant coronavirus variant in India. As of 20th April 2021, India reported 2,59,170 fresh cases of COVID-19 along with 1,761 fatalities.
Only travellers arriving from low-risk countries, comprising of New Zealand, China, Australia, Taiwan and Brunei, with low COVID-19 infection rates are exempted from the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Instead, they have to take a PCR test on their arrival in Singapore and self-isolate themselves unless the test results are out, which is usually not more than 48 hours. They will have to spend 14 days in quarantine only if they test positive for COVID-19.
Although the borders of Singapore have reopened for official and business travellers, international tourists are still not allowed to enter the country for leisure purpose.
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Come May 2021, international travellers will be able to travel to Singapore with the introduction of a new digital travel pass by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This travel pass will comprise of a smartphone application that will contain digital certificates of the COVID-19 tests and vaccine from accredited laboratories administered to the foreign traveller wishing to enter Singapore. It will store all the trusted and verifiable details of the traveller’s COVID-19 health status in one place.
The IATA travel pass will help to speed up the process of pre-departure and arrival checks conducted to provide clearance to the traveller to fly in and out of Singapore. As a result, it will avoid any flight delays or complications arising out of the multiple documents checks done at the airport at present.
Recently, a successful trial of the IATA digital pass was conducted by Singapore Airlines. Currently, over 20 airlines, including Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates, are testing the pass.
Although the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced that the IATA digital pass will be accepted from May 2021, international travellers may still be required to undergo their mandatory 14-day home quarantine period. But with the digital travel pass, the IATA looks forward to the reopening of the border of Singapore to vaccinated foreign tourists without any need for quarantine that will boost the country’s aviation industry.
In a Nutshell
Singapore wishes to be one of the world’s first countries to reopen its borders for foreign visitors and hold international events since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The introduction of the IATA travel pass from May 2021 is a step towards achieving this goal and eventually, inviting vaccinated foreign tourists into the country. Until then, the citizens of Singapore are being vaccinated to ensure herd immunity and the quarantine rules for foreign visitors are keeping the current COVID-19 cases count in check.