Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the inauguration ceremony of Gurdwara Sahib Silat Road, one of the most popular gurdwaras in the country, earlier this year (Image courtesy: Twitter/@leehsienloong)
Following India's decision last week to recognise Covid-19 vaccination certificates issued by Singapore, the island nation intends to start a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with New Delhi from November 29.
Discussions on the resumption of scheduled commercial passenger services were held as India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Singapore's Minister of Transport S Iswaran in Singapore today.
With Singapore cautiously reopening its borders to more countries, plans are afoot to start daily VTL flights from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai by the end of this month.
As of now, the only flights from Singapore allowed to carry passengers to India are government-chartered relief flights under the 'Vande Bharat Mission'.
"Began my Singapore visit by meeting S Iswaran, Minister of Transport. Discussed enhancing travel arrangements between the two countries," Jaishankar tweeted on Wednesday.
India began to recognise vaccination certificates issued by Singapore from November 12 which meant that fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore entering India will no longer need to undergo post-arrival tests or home quarantine. They would just need to self-monitor for 14 days upon arrival.
Singapore's Ministry of Health has also updated its public health assessment and will upgrade India to Category II from November 19 as they have similar or lower Covid-19 incidence rates than Singapore and the other VTL countries.
"Our ties with India are longstanding and broad-based. India was among our top five markets accounting for about 7% of passenger arrivals at Changi Airport, in 2019," Iswaran had said while announcing VTLs with India, Indonesia, and the Middle East on Monday.
Learning to live with Covid-19
Singapore started Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) on September 8 with just two countries – Brunei Darussalam and Germany.
Before Monday, Singapore had announced VTLs with 16 countries – 2 in North America, 10 in Europe, and 4 in the Asia-Pacific.
It now plans to extend the scheme to five more countries, including India, Indonesia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the coming weeks.
According to the country's health ministry, the step-by-step extension of the VTL allows the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to revive air travel safely without compromising public health.
Under the VTL, fully vaccinated travellers from VTL countries may enter Singapore without quarantine and just need to undergo Covid-19 testing. Children aged 12 years and below who are not vaccinated will be allowed to travel under the VTL into Singapore if they are accompanied by a VTL traveller who meets all VTL requirements.
Iswaran says that as everyone learns to 'live with Covid-19', Singapore will persevere with reopening borders safely to secure its position as a global business and aviation hub.
"The global Covid-19 pandemic is evolving, with the risk of new variants and waves of infection. We must expect and accept that border policies may change as situations change," he said.
As of now, the country is opening to visitors with safeguards, including proof of vaccination and testing. The VTL quota too will be managed and increased from 6,000 to 10,000 travellers daily in the coming weeks.