Malaysia resumes ticket sales for quarantine-free travel to Singapore


A Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) bus plies the causeway between Singapore and Malaysia, as it reopens after nearly two years amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Singapore November 29, 2021. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 (Reuters) – Malaysia has resumed ticket sales for air and land travel under a vaccinated travel lane programme with Singapore that had been suspended until Jan. 20 over Omicron coronavirus variant concerns, the health ministry said on Friday.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement said the ticket sales resumption follows a risk evaluation on the current COVID-19 situation in both countries.

The country will halve the ticket quota, however, for air and land travel. Increasing ticket quotas will be based on risk assessments from time to time on the COVID-19 situation in both countries, he said.

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Reporting by Liz Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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US updates COVID-19 travel health notice for Singapore after ‘unknown’ classification


SINGAPORE: The United States has updated its travel health notice for Singapore, about a week after it advised against travel to the country.

In an update on Monday (Jan 10), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reclassified Singapore as a Level 3 destination, where COVID-19 levels are “high”. 

“Make sure you are fully vaccinated before travelling to Singapore,” the updated notice said on the CDC website. “Unvaccinated travellers should avoid nonessential travel to Singapore.”

According to the CDC website, Level 3 countries have a COVID-19 incidence rate of between 100 and 500 new cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population.

Other Level 3 countries include Malaysia, Australia, Israel, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

On Jan 4, the CDC said that the level of COVID-19 in Singapore was “unknown”.

“Because the current situation in Singapore is unknown, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the CDC said at the time, advising people to avoid travel to Singapore.

On Jan 5, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that this classification was applied because the US CDC was “not aware of our surveillance test numbers”, and that Singapore was providing it with the data.

The CDC uses COVID-19 data reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other official sources to make determinations about travel health notice levels, according to its website.

“If a destination does not provide data, their travel health notice level is designated as ‘unknown’ and travellers are advised to follow travel health notice Level 4 recommendations,” the CDC said.

Mr Ong said on Jan 5 that the Singapore Ministry of Health was engaging the US embassy in Singapore and the CDC to provide the necessary data.

“Just to be clear, we know our situation very well,” Mr Ong said during a COVID-19 multi-ministry task force press conference.

“Every week, we administer over 150,000 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests. And that works out to over 21,000 PCR tests per day. Positive rates for these tests are under 2 per cent.”

There are also 145 wastewater testing stations across Singapore in places like housing estates, dormitories and nursing homes, he said.

“Only a very small handful are registering the presence of COVID-19 viral fragments. So we are sure that the incidence of COVID-19 in our community is currently low and stable.”



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Singapore Suspends Quarantine-Free Travel Through January 20


Singapore has announced that it will suspend new ticket sales for quarantine-free travel beginning Thursday, December 23 through January 20, 2022 to help limit the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

According to CNBC, the suspension applies to both flights and buses to the autonomous city-state. Travelers who have previously booked quarantine-free travel to Singapore will be able to enter under the previous guidelines.

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A press release from Singapore’s Ministry of Health reports the city-state has identified 65 cases of the Omicron variant so far. The country also boasts one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with 87 percent of residents fully vaccinated at the beginning of December.

Travelers visiting the country under the now-suspended quarantine-free rules must take a PCR test upon arrival, as well as daily rapid antigen tests for their first week in Singapore.

The new suspension of quarantine-free travel is the latest change in Singapore’s travel restrictions. According to CNBC, the government made stricter testing measures, postponed launching quarantine-free travel between countries in the Middle East and restricted travel from Southern African countries, where the Omicron variant was first identified.

“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defenses, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted. Meanwhile, we need everyone to remain vigilant to reduce the risks of widespread community transmission, and to keep yourself, your loved ones and the community safe. In particular, travelers must adhere closely to the travel health control measures,” the Health Ministry said in its latest news update.

Singapore is not the only country that has suspended quarantine-free travel to the country. Thailand has just suspended its Thailand Pass program for international travelers, while Israel has banned travel to several countries, including Canada and the United States earlier this week.

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For information on the latest travel requirements to Singapore, please click here.





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Singapore to suspend new ticket sales for quarantine-free travel


Travellers check in for the flight at the Singapore Airlines counter in the departure hall at Changi International Airport in Singapore on December 2, 2021.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

Singapore will freeze new ticket sales for quarantine-free travel in an effort to limit exposure to imported omicron cases, the health ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The suspension, which begins Thursday and runs through Jan. 20, applies to flights and buses into the city-state.

Travelers who have already booked tickets under Singapore’s vaccinated travel lane arrangements will still be able to enter the country without serving quarantines.

“Our border measures will help to buy us time to study and understand the Omicron variant, and to strengthen our defences, including enhancing our healthcare capacity, and getting more people vaccinated and boosted,” the health ministry said.

Singapore has so far detected 65 imported omicron cases. As of Monday, there were six local omicron cases in the country, the health ministry said.

About 96% of Singapore’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, or about 87% of the total population, according to health ministry data. More than a third of the total population (34%) has received a booster. Shots for children between 5 and 11 years old have been approved and are set to begin Monday.

When the ticket sale suspension ends on Jan. 20, the number of people allowed to visit Singapore without serving quarantines will be temporarily reduced, according to the press release.

The health ministry said the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Ministry of Trade and Industry will provide more details on vaccinated travel lanes via air and land, respectively.

Travelers who enter Singapore under quarantine-free arrangements have to take a PCR test on arrival, and daily antigen rapid tests for the first seven days in the country.

Singapore’s vaccinated travel lane program was key in the country’s pivot to a “living with Covid” strategy, reopening borders while keeping certain anti-virus measures in place. Freezing new ticket sales for this arrangement appears to be the biggest yet scale back of that effort.

Since omicron emerged, the government has tightened testing measures for travelers and postponed the launch of quarantine-free travel lanes with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Singapore has also restricted travel from African countries including South Africa, which first detected the omicron variant.



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Singapore and India resume two-way air vaccinated travel lane


On 30 November, Singapore was put on a list of territories considered by India to be at high risk of Covid-19 infections, which meant travellers flying from Singapore to India had to take Covid-19 tests and serve a seven-day quarantine after arriving in India from 1 December.

On 9 December, India Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) removed Singapore from the list. After resuming the two-way air vaccinated travel lane (VTL), travellers from Singapore to India must still monitor their health after their arrival. Additionally, a random sample of 2% of travellers must undergo a Covid-19 test upon arrival in India, according to MOHFW guidance (1-page / 374KB PDF).

Mayumi Soh of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture between MPillay and Pinsent Masons, said: “Travellers should be alert and keep themselves updated on changes to the travel requirements of the relevant countries.”

The VTL arrangements allow travellers who are fully vaccinated to enter Singapore without quarantine, provided that they undergo Covid-19 testing before departure and upon arrival at Changi airport. From 6 December, travellers must take supervised daily antigen rapid tests (ART) for a week after they arrive in Singapore.

Singapore launched its VTL with India on 29 November. There are currently six designated VTL flights to Singapore daily from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.



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I Tried Singapore Airlines’ New Vaccinated Travel Lane Flight




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Best cities for British expats – including Malaga, Dubai and Singapore | Travel News | Travel


InterNations is the largest global community for expats around the world and has over four million members. In the Expat City Ranking, expats rated cities based on several important factors.

The cities were ranked on factors including the quality of life they offer expats, how easy it is to make friends, work-life balance and finance and housing.

The best city in the world for expats came in first place because so many expats feel at home there.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, was ranked as the best city in the world for expats.

Over 75 percent of expats find it easy to get used to the local culture while 80 percent think local residents are friendly towards foreigners.

READ MORE: Which is the UK’s ‘best’ Christmas market? New data

One expat from the USA said: “I love Kuala Lumpur’s culturally diverse environment and the overall friendliness.”

The buzzing Malaysian city is also very affordable for most expats with 74 percent saying they found housing well priced.

Over 90 percent of expats said housing was easy to find in Kuala Lumpur while over 60 percent thought their household income was “more than enough”.

Kuala Lumpur is also a top tourist destination with travellers flocking to the city to visit the limestone Batu Caves and marvel at the views from the Petronas Twin Towers.

DON’T MISS

The second best city in the world for British expats is already a firm favourite with British migrants and tourists.

Malaga ranked second highest in the InterNations study and was chosen as the best city for making friends and socialising.

Nearly 70 percent of expats found it easy to make friends in Malaga while over 85 percent thought the cost of living was very affordable.

One US expat in Malaga said: “Malaga has everything to offer for downtime.” Not a single expat said they were unhappy with the weather in Malaga.

Malaga is a fantastic choice for British expats with 16 beautiful beaches and it’s just a short hop from many top Costa del Sol resorts.

Dubai was the third best destination for British expats and was ranked the best city in the world to live in without speaking the local language.

Over 80 percent of people said the local people were friendly towards foreign residents while almost 60 percent thought it was easy to make friends there.

Almost all the expats felt safe living in Dubai but the great quality of life unfortunately comes at a price.

Only 41 percent of expats thought housing was affordable in Dubai and over 30 percent thought their household income was not enough.

The fourth best destination for expats was sunny Sydney in Australia. An expat from Pakistan said: “I like the clean environment, the beautiful scenery and the diverse community with its mix of cultures.”

Over 80 percent of expats in Sydney thought it was easy to get used to the local culture and 72 percent felt at home in the Australian city.

Best 10 cities for British expats (InterNations)

  1. Kuala Lumpur
  2. Malaga
  3. Dubai
  4. Sydney
  5. Singapore
  6. Ho Chi Minh
  7. Prague
  8. Mexico City
  9. Basel
  10. Madrid





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Singapore Airlines to sell flexible ticket bundles


Singapore Airlines has launched a new product that will
allow passengers in certain markets to buy bundles of flight tickets that can
be used against future bookings.

Dubbed Flight Pass, the bundles will initially be offered on
SIA services between Singapore and France, Italy, South Korea, Spain, the
Netherlands and the UK. This includes quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane
flights if the trip starts in Singapore.

According to the airline, customers may be able to “lock in
discounted air fares for multiple flights” and decide their travel dates at a later
time, subject to seat availability. Travel can be customised based on
parameters such as destinations, the number of flights, the travel period and
fare type.

Tickets purchased as part of a Flight Pass bundle can also
be transferred to colleagues, friends and family members, giving organisations
flexibility in assigning tickets to employees.

The service has been launched in partnership with US-based travel
options provider Optiontown. SIA says it plans to expand Flight Pass to other
destinations on its network in the future.

Lee Lik Hsin, executive vice president of commercial at
Singapore Airlines, said: “As more quarantine-free international travel flights
become available, Flight Pass offers Singapore Airlines customers greater
flexibility and options when planning their trips. It allows them to enjoy
greater cost savings by pooling their travel and tailoring it according to
their preferences.”



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Singapore launches vaccinated travel lanes with Thailand, Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey


RECOGNITION OF EU DIGITAL VACCINE CERTIFICATE

From Dec 7, Singapore will accept vaccination certificates issued in the European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC) format as valid proof for VTL travel, said CAAS.

This comes after the European Commission announced on Wednesday that it would recognise the Singapore HealthCerts as equivalent to the EU DCC, connecting Singapore to this “trust framework”, said the authority.

With this, travellers from VTL countries with EU DCC certificates – even if those were issued in a non-VTL country – will be able to travel to Singapore on VTL, said CAAS.

These travellers must still meet other VTL conditions, it added.

RESTRICTIONS TIGHTENED FOR SOME COUNTRIES

Separately, Singapore will tighten border measures for six European countries, following the “worsening situation” in those locations.

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein and Slovakia will be classified as Category III countries from 11.59pm on Dec 1, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a separate news release.

Travellers from Category III countries are required to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at their place of accommodation, in addition to COVID-19 testing.

Belize, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Panama, Peru and Uruguay will also be classified as Category III countries from 11.59pm on Dec 1.

MOH said it will also classify Thailand, Argentina, Kuwait, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan and Romania as Category II countries from the same date.

Those arriving from Category II countries must serve a seven-day stay-home notice at their place of accommodation and be tested for COVID-19.

UPDATE ON VTL TRAVELLERS

As of 11.59pm on Thursday, 79,335 vaccinated travel passes have been issued for entry into Singapore between Sep 8 and Jan 27, 2022, said CAAS.

This number does not include Singaporeans, permanent residents and children aged 12 and below travelling under the VTL, who do not need to apply for a vaccinated travel pass.

Just over 37,000 VTL travellers have entered Singapore as of Thursday, added CAAS.

More than 20,000 of these are short-term visitors or long-term pass holders. About 15,000 are Singaporeans or permanent residents, and about 1,700 are children.



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Travel Bubble With Singapore Brings International Students Back to Australia | World News


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A group of international university students arrived in Australia from Singapore on Sunday after nearly a two-year pandemic absence, as a travel bubble between the two countries came into effect.

Fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore are now allowed into Melbourne or Sydney without the need to quarantine – part of Australia’s gradual reopening of its borders that began this month. Australia closed its international borders in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, which represents 39 universities, said the flights from Singapore saw the first international students enter Australia since small numbers returned in November last year.

“We understand these initial numbers are small, but they are a clear signal of the intent to allow many more students to return to classes and our communities soon,” Jackson said.

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There are about 130,000 international students remaining outside Australia, she added.

Before the pandemic, international students made up 21% of Australia’s tertiary education students, compared to 6% on average across countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Australia’s closed borders have also intensified a skills shortage across sectors, forcing firms to start offering sign-on bonuses for the first time in years.

The closed borders, however, together with quick lockdowns, strict health measures and public compliances with the rules, have made Australia one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic.

Despite the Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia has had only about 760 confirmed cases and 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from the World Health Organisation, far lower than many other developed nations.

On Sunday, there were 1,460 new infections across Australia, most of them in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. Six more people have died. A cluster in Northern Territories grew to 31 cases after nine infections were reported in some of the Territory’s remote communities.

As of Saturday, 85% of eligible Australians over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated, health data showed.

There were 149 new community cases reported in nneighbouring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates. Some 83% of the Pacific nation’s eligible population have been fully vaccinated.

($1 = 1.3824 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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