Last week Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced that citizens, residents and visitors from two low risk COVID-19 countries would be permitted to enter the country for general travel (including tourism) purposes. Provided they have spent the last 14 days in Brunei or New Zealand, these individuals would no longer need to serve a Stay Home Notice on arrival, subject instead to a COVID-19 test at Changi airport.
Today the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has revealed further details of the Air Travel Pass (ATP) including the application and arrival process. Visitors travelling from these two countries can apply for an ATP, which is mandatory if they do not wish to serve a quarantine period on arrival, from 1st September 2020, in preparation for the first arrivals from 8th September 2020.
Who needs an ATP?
First and foremost it’s only visitors from Brunei and New Zealand who require an ATP. Singapore citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders returning home from Brunei or New Zealand will not need to apply for an ATP and will similarly not be subject to any SHN, instead also undergoing a COVID-19 test on arrival in lieu of the current arrangements. This will apply from 1st September 2020.
Visitors refer to business or general travellers who are not Singapore Citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents or Singapore Long-Term Pass Holders.
The ATP comes with conditions of travel that the applicant must comply with.
When can visitors apply?
Visitors can apply for an ATP from 1st September 2020 at 12:00 Singapore time (GMT+8), for entry into Singapore from 8th September 2020 at 00:01 onwards.
Applications for the ATP can be made between seven and 30 calendar days prior to the intended date of entry into Singapore.
For example, visitors who intend to enter Singapore on 1st October 2020 must apply for an ATP between 1st September 2020 and 24th September 2020.
Processing time is typically within three working days, and there is no fee payable for the ATP.
Which visitors need an ATP?
All visitors including children require their own individual ATP, even when travelling as a family. Those aged under 18 will require consent from their parent or guardian for the application.
An ATP is valid for entry over 8 days
The ATP will be issued for validity commencing on the intended date of travel to Singapore, but is then valid for seven further days in case you need to make any changes to your flight arrangements.
For example, visitors who hold a valid ATP to enter Singapore on 1st October 2020 have until 8th October to do so.
Visitors can then stay in Singapore as long as permitted based on the usual visit period applicable to their passport before COVID-19. For New Zealand citizens this is 90 days, for Brunei citizens it’s 30 days, based on tourist visits.
As the ATP programme is expanded to countries whose citizens normally require a visa to visit Singapore, those passport holders must separately obtain a visa for entry after their ATP approval letter is issued.
You’ll have to take a direct flight
Only those arriving on direct flights will be approved to follow the new programme.
“This is to protect public health in Singapore by ensuring that visitors are not travelling to Singapore via a country with high virus prevalence rates.”CAAS
For example if Cathay Pacific were to restart its Auckland – Hong Kong route, it would not be possible for a passenger to book an AKL-HKG-SIN itinerary with that airline then follow these new arrival procedures without quarantine.
Visitors will also need to download the TraceTogether app. They must do so prior to departing for Singapore. They must also book accommodation to serve out their isolation period for 1-2 days while waiting for their post-arrival COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result.
When checking in at the departure airport, visitors must present the following to the airline staff:
- a valid ATP approval letter (electronic or physical copy) for the intended week of entry into Singapore;
- a valid visa (for visa-required passport holders); and
- a mobile device with the TraceTogether app downloaded. Children aged 12 or younger in that calendar year and travelling with family are exempted from this requirement. Visitors with a certified disability or special need are also exempted.
A visitor who does not have any of the above may be refused boarding by the airline.
Your mobile device
Since your mobile device acts as your ‘tag’ while in Singapore, you will need a compatible one to be eligible to travel under the ATP scheme in order to use the TraceTogether app.
Mobile devices that are incompatible with the TraceTogether app include:
- Huawei phones that do not have access to Google Play store (e.g. Mate 30, P40, P40 Pro.)
- Non-camera phones
- Phones with Android version 5.0 and below
- Phones with iOS version 9 and below
- Phones running on Blackberry OS or Symbian OS
- Phones with a Mobile Device Management (MDM system installed by employers that prevents downloads from the Google Play store or App Store)
“All visitors must have a mobile device to download the TraceTogether app. They are responsible for ensuring that their mobile devices are compatible with the TraceTogether app, and may be refused boarding and entry into Singapore if they are unable to download the TraceTogether app on their mobile devices.”CAAS
Upon arrival in Singapore, visitors must undergo a COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test at the airport, in lieu of a Stay-Home Notice. The test results will be out within 48 hours.Note: Children aged 12 or younger in that calendar year are not required to undergo a post-arrival COVID-19 PCR test. However, children whose close contacts are found to be tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to take the test.
The cost of the COVID-19 PCR test is S$300 (S$280.40 + GST). Visitors will bear the cost of the test in Singapore, even if they have a recent negative COVID-19 test from overseas (which incidentally is not an entry requirement).
To expedite the COVID-19 PCR test at the airport, visitors are strongly encouraged to pre-book and make payment at safetravel.changiairport.com.
After taking the COVID-19 PCR test, visitors are to take private transportation, taxi, or private hire car from the airport to their declared place of accommodation.
This must be non-residential and must be an individual room with an attached toilet and is at their own expense. In other words, a hotel booking is required. The SHA has a list of approved hotels for green lane travellers to Singapore.
Note that this is not the same as the list of approved hotels for staycations.
Visitors must remain isolated at the accommodation until the test result is confirmed to be negative. That means no trips to the pool or the gym, with in-room dining likely the highlight of your first couple of days on vacation.
Realistically that means booking a hotel for at least two nights before being free to switch to a private residence and stay with friends or family, for example.
After being notified of their negative test results, visitors will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore. If they wish to remain in a hotel, it no longer needs to be one on the SHA list (57 hotels), since all staycation-approved hotels in Singapore (207 at the time of writing) can then accept passengers travelling on an ATP, after they have had a negative test result.
This is a little ambiguous, so we checked directly with CAAS on the policy, who confirmed it to us.
“While awaiting their test results, visitors must remain isolated at their declared place of accommodation until the test result is confirmed to be negative. This aforementioned accommodation must be within the Singapore Hotel Association’s list of hotels approved to receive visitors travelling to Singapore.
“After being notified of their negative test results, visitors will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore, and there will be no restrictions imposed on their choice of accommodation.”CAAS
For example, the Four Seasons Hotel is staycation-approved but does not accept those travelling on green lanes while awaiting test results, including the new visitors from Brunei and New Zealand. They would therefore have to move to the Four Seasons only after getting their negative PCR test result in this example.
Most major tourist hotels are on both lists, however, so this is not a major concern.
While in Singapore
During their stay in Singapore, visitors must:
- Adhere to the prevailing public health measures (mask wearing, social distancing etc.).
- Keep the TraceTogether app activated.
- Keep mobile devices and the Bluetooth function switched on at all times.
After leaving Singapore
After leaving Singapore, visitors must:
- Retain the TraceTogether app with the data on their mobile device for 14 consecutive days after leaving Singapore.
- Upload all data in the TraceTogether app upon request by the Singapore Ministry of Health should they test positive for COVID-19 while in Singapore or in the 14 days after leaving Singapore.
General travel to Brunei and New Zealand to be allowed
As we mentioned last week, Singapore will also change its official travel advisory to allow ‘general travel’ to both Brunei and New Zealand from 1st September 2020, however that won’t help most Singapore residents since both countries continue to maintain their current strict entry requirements, as shown below.
- Nationals and residents of Brunei are permitted to enter the country.
- Exemptions are only granted for those sponsored by the government or a registered company.
- Visas are suspended.
- Nationals of New Zealand and their immediate family members, or permanent residents and their immediate family members, are permitted to enter the country.
- Australian citizens ordinarily resident in New Zealand are also allowed to enter.
- All passengers are subject to medical screening and 14 days quarantine on arrival.
That makes holidays in either of these countries an impossibility for almost all our readers even into September 2020, however Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-heads a government task force on the COVID-19 pandemic, did provide some hope that a future reciprocal arrangement might be reached.
“When we are ready with the reciprocal green lane arrangements with these two countries we will announce the details”Lawrence Wong, Education Minister
Singapore already has fast lane and green lane arrangements for essential and business travel with both mainland China and Malaysia, however these potential agreements with Brunei and New Zealand could mark the first leisure travel ‘bubbles’ in future.
Unfortunately no time frame has been stated, and with New Zealand suffering a recent resurgence in cases there may still be months longer to wait before significant progress is announced.
While Singaporeans travelling under the newly relaxed travel advisory to Brunei and New Zealand will be appropriately covered on return to Singapore if necessary (despite that remaining unrealistic for most at the moment), visitors to Singapore will be liable for their own costs.
“Visitors must bear the full cost of medical treatment, tests and isolation imposed on them for public health reasons, should they be suspected of being infected with COVID-19, or require medical treatment for COVID-19 while in Singapore.”CAAS
Arrivals from other countries
From 1st September 2020, some changes to the quarantine requirements for arrivals into Singapore from other countries will also take effect, including a halving of the quarantine period for those returning from low risk countries. Current entry requirements still apply to those not arriving from Brunei or New Zealand.
From 1st September 2020
| SHN @ Home
| SHN in Hotel
For those serving SHN either at their home address or at a hotel / designated facility, a COVID-19 test will be conducted prior to the end of the stipulated period, as is currently the case.
Essentially, this process is likely the ‘blueprint’ for what we can expect when wider reciprocal leisure green lanes are progressively agreed with other neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam for example, so while they aren’t much use to anyone at this stage the details are certainly of interest.
Visitors travelling to Singapore under the new Air Travel Pass (ATP) from 8th September 2020 will have to follow some specific procedures and testing before, during and after their visit.
These requirements effectively encompass five principal conditions:
- Travel History: They must have spent the last 14 consecutive days in Brunei or New Zealand before departing for Singapore. All visitors must travel from these countries to Singapore on direct flights without transit.
- Documentation: Show specific documents to airline staff at check in at the point of departure, and at the checkpoint upon arrival in Singapore.
- Post-Arrival Testing: Upon arrival in Singapore, visitors must undergo a COVID-19 PCR test at the airport, at a cost of S$300. The test results will be out within 48 hours. After taking the COVID-19 PCR test, visitors are to take private transportation, taxis, or private hire cars from the airport to their declared place of accommodation, including hotels on a specific list. They must remain isolated at the accommodation until the test result is confirmed to be negative. Upon clearing the test, visitors will be allowed to go about their activities in Singapore, including access to a wider list of staycation-approved hotels.
- Contact Tracing: Visitors must download the TraceTogether app on their mobile devices prior to departing for Singapore and keep it activated during their stay. In addition, they must not delete the TraceTogether app for 14 consecutive days after leaving Singapore. Should they subsequently test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after leaving Singapore, they will be required to upload data in the app if asked by the Singapore Ministry of Health.
- Medical Costs: Visitors will be responsible for their medical bills should they require medical treatment for COVID-19 while in Singapore.
Singapore citizens and residents arriving home from these two countries from 1st September 2020 will also follow a similar process, though they do not require an ATP and will be free to return home after their test result clears.
Interestingly, a pre-departure COVID-19 test is not required as part of the arrangement, something we suspected probably would be involved.
Overall, these restrictions are a far cry from spending 14 days under SHN in a hotel. Within a few days of arrival, once they are confirmed negative for COVID-19, general visitors should be able to go about their activities in Singapore as tourists without any major restrictions.
Staycation-approved hotels are also then available to them. While the numbers will probably be small to begin with, as Singapore expands this arrangement to other countries (and hopefully on a reciprocal basis) it should provide a much needed boost to the local hospitality industry.
For full details of the new procedures for travellers from Brunei and New Zealand, see the CAAS website here.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)