Airlines welcome Singapore move to ease travel restrictions

August 20, 2021
Photo: IATA

The peak international airline group has welcomed a move by Singapore to ease travel restrictions with its first quarantine-free travel program for arrivals from Brunei and Germany.

The relaxation will also see rules eased for Hong Kong and Macau from August 26.

The International Air Transport Association labeled the move “a positive step in the right direction” but warned the Asia-Pacific still risks being left behind because of their zero-risk approach to COIVID.

IATA deputy director-general  Conrad Clifford said he hoped other Asia-Pacific nations would follow Singapore’s lead.

READ: Asia-Pacific governments urged to move on digital travel passes.

“We understand the need for a cautious approach and look forward to seeing further lifting of quarantine requirements,’’ IATA deputy director-general Conrad Clifford said. “This will help with the recovery of the aviation and tourism sectors.”

The island state, whose aviation industry depends on international travel, said it was moving to reopen its borders in “a cautious step-by-step manner”  after more than 75 percent of its population was fully vaccinated.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced a new vaccinated travel lane in lieu of its stay-at-Home notices starting September 8.

Travelers from Germany or Brunei must have been fully vaccinated in their country of departure or Singapore by a World Health Organisation listed vaccine at least 14 days prior to flying and must undergo multiple Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.

This includes a test within 38 hours of departure, on arrival at Changi Airport as well as three and seven days after their arrival at designated clinics in Singapore.

They will also need to apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass, applications for which open September 1.

Visitors from Hong Kong and Macau who have spent 21 consecutive days in those cities must undergo a PCR test on arrival and will be allowed to go about their activities if they isolate until they get a negative result.

“As the global COVID-19 situation evolves, we will continue to adjust our border measures with the appropriate safeguards to ensure public health and safety,” the CAAC said.

Airline trade organizations have been worried about the slow pace of re-opening Asia-Pacific aviation markets, with the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines also recently expressing concern.

IATA’s Conrad said it had been 18 months since the world closed its borders to international travel and a lot more was known today about COVID.

“Unfortunately, many states in Asia-Pacific continue to adopt a risk-averse zero-COVID approach, and continue to shut their borders,’’ he said.

“This is not sustainable and is detrimental to both their economies and their populations.

“We have seen moves around the world to reopen borders, allow international travel, and restarting their aviation and tourism sectors. Asia-Pacific risks being left behind.

“A data-driven approach using vaccination and testing can manage the risk of COVID-19 when reopening borders to international travel.

“Singapore has shown leadership in demonstrating that it is safe to reopen international travel without quarantine. I hope other Asia Pacific states will take similar steps with their borders.”

The Singapore easing came as IATA announced that EU and UK digital COVID certificates could now be uploaded into the IATA Travel pass as verified proof of vaccination of travel.

It said travelers holding an EU DCC or UK NHS COVID Pass could now access accurate COVID-19 travel information for their journey, create an electronic version of their passport and import their vaccination certificate in one place.

“COVID-19 vaccination certificates are becoming a widespread requirement for international travel. Handling the European and UK certificates through IATA Travel Pass is an important step forward, providing convenience for travelers, authenticity for governments and efficiency for airlines,” said IATA senior vice president Nick Careen.