The UK government announced yesterday that passengers arriving in England and Scotland from Singapore after 4am on Saturday 19th September 2020 will no longer be subject to mandatory 14-day self isolation, a restriction that has been in force since early June.
Those arriving in England and Scotland from Thailand will also now be exempt from the same date but, confusingly, not those arriving in Wales.
Arrivals in Wales from Singapore have been exempt from quarantine since 29th August 2020.
This allows visitors from Singapore to start their holiday, or those returning home to go about their regular business, immediately upon arrival across the UK.
Singapore has not changed its border measures
Before you start planning a trip to the UK, do note that Singapore has not changed its border measures for Stay-Home Notice (SHN) requirements on arrival from the United Kingdom, nor are UK or EU citizens permitted to travel to Singapore unless they have residency status.
Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Work Pass holders will still have to serve a mandatory 14-day SHN in a hotel on arrival when returning from the UK, at their own expense of S$2,000.
The only exception is for Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents who left Singapore on or before 26th March 2020. In this case the government bears the cost of providing SHN.
Arrival from some countries is now possible through either a COVID-19 testing programme, or 7-day SHN at your home address, though the UK still falls into the most restrictive category with 14-day SHN required in a dedicated facility.
Arrival into Singapore from overseas
| SHN @ Home
| SHN in Hotel
This policy is unlikely to change anytime soon, with the UK still seeing around 3,000 new COVID-19 cases per day in the last week or so.
That won’t stop some Singaporeans from now choosing to go to the UK, for example those eager to visit friends and relatives who were put off by having to spend a total of 28 days in quarantine (14 days there + 14 days on return), unfeasible for most.
Remember also there are many Singaporeans living in the UK who are keen to see their family and friends in Singapore and who will now consider that with no quarantine requirement on their return to the UK it’s worth a single 14-day SHN period to achieve this (again, 28 days was probably out of the question).
Singapore Airlines should therefore see a small uptick in traffic on its London flights from these kind of travellers, however there’s unlikely to be any significant leisure travel rebound as a result of this change.
It’s good news for transit traffic
The real benefit for Singapore Airlines here should be an increase in transit traffic.
That’s because even if travellers heading to the United Kingdom were originating in a country exempt from arrival quarantine, like Australia or New Zealand, a transit in Singapore meant arrival quarantine was then enforced, because transits count too and Singapore was on “the naughty list”.
If your journey involves a transit stop in a country, territory or region not on the travel corridor list, you will need to self-isolate when you arrive in England if:
You don’t need to self-isolate beyond normal timescales if, during your transit stop in a non-exempt country, territory or region:
In other words, apart from a refuelling stop, a regular transit in a non-exempt country like Singapore meant quarantine was automatically enforceable, even if you had originated in an exempt country.
So for example when given the choice of flying from Sydney to London either on Singapore Airlines via Changi or on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, it was pretty clear which one to go for.
Hong Kong has always been one of the UK’s exempt countries for quarantine on arrival, so the Cathay Pacific itinerary was a no-brainer – giving you zero self isolation requirement on arrival in the UK.
In addition to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have always been quarantine-free transit points for those heading from Australia or New Zealand to the UK, so there have been a number of superior options for these travellers compared to the Changi transit on Singapore Airlines since early June.
That’s no longer the case, with Singapore added to the UK’s exemption list all Changi transits will exonerate you from arrival quarantine in the UK provided you initially originated in an exempt country (e.g. Australia or New Zealand).
For details of the transit experience at Changi Airport, see our article from earlier this year.
Careful of the Middle East
If you’re making a connecting journey to the UK from Singapore (or the likes of Hong Kong / Australia for that matter), do be careful when looking at itineraries with a transit in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.
These can be tempting as they often get you closer to your final destination (e.g. Qatar Airways is currently flying to Edinburgh and Manchester, as well as London).
None of the Middle East countries are exempt from quarantine for UK arrivals, so your transit stop will invalidate the exemption, even if you started your journey in Singapore or another approved country.
Again, this should play to SIA’s favour, with 12 non-stop London flights per week there is no question on arrival about where you may have transited during your journey. Provided you’ve been in Singapore (or another approved country) for at least the last 14 days, you will be exempt from any self isolation requirement.
Note: British Airways is also offering non-stop Singapore – London flights four times per week.
There are other routings from Singapore to the UK to be careful of too.
While you’re all good on the following flights:
- ANA (via NRT)
- Cathay Pacific (via HKG)
- Finnair (via HEL)
- JAL (via NRT)
- Lufthansa (via FRA)
- Turkish (via IST)
since those transit points are in countries on the ‘zero-quarantine’ list, you will not be except on:
- Air France (via CDG)
- KLM (via AMS)
- Swiss (via ZRH)
in addition to the ‘Middle East 3’; Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
That’s because arrivals from (or transits via) France, the Netherlands and Switzerland are not exempt from quarantine in the UK, in common with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
You can see a full list of countries on England’s travel corridor list at the following link:
The lists for Scotland and Wales are slightly different. You will be subject to those restrictions if your final destination is in these countries (e.g. Edinburgh or Cardiff), even if you first landed into London.
Remember these are exemption from quarantine lists. If your origin country (and transit country if applicable) is on the list you will not need to self isolate on arrival.
On the face of it, the announcement that England and Scotland will lift their mandatory quarantine requirements for those arriving from Singapore doesn’t seem all that significant while no such reciprocal arrangement is in place.
Nonetheless Singapore Airlines can certainly benefit from this change, especially now it is able to offer those returning to the UK (or travelling for urgent reasons) from both Australia and New Zealand a quarantine-free arrival, not previously possible following transit through Changi.
That’s a significant market, especially at the moment with very little origin-destination traffic for Singapore itself. Since June the obvious choice for these travellers, until now, has been Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong or JAL via Tokyo.
It will also likely encourage those returning to the UK from Singapore itself (or also travelling for urgent family or even leisure reasons) to pick SIA, in order to avoid being scuppered by the ‘transit rule’ still affecting all Middle East carriers and even some less-expected European operators like Swiss and KLM.
Large scale leisure travel between Singapore and the UK is still a long way off, however this is a positive small step and will be welcome news to those heading home to the UK from (or via) Singapore in the coming weeks and months, while at the same time benefitting SIA with increased passenger loads.
(Cover Photo: Heathrow Airport Limited)