In continued response to the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the Singapore Government is tightening safeguards for those arriving on the quarantine-free Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, by beefing up the testing regime, which will unfortunately mean some added cost and inconvenience for travellers.
The updated protocols come after Singapore indefinitely suspended the upcoming addition of three Middle East countries to the VTL programme, originally planned for 6th December.
Upcoming VTLs with Thailand, Cambodia, Maldives, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Turkey from mid-December will go ahead as planned for now, despite some initial reports to the contrary.
Once these VTLs are up and running, there will be no additional ones announced for the time being.
Day 3 and Day 7 tests
When the pilot VTL schemes with Brunei and Germany were operating there were two rather annoying post-arrival PCR tests in Singapore on Day 3 and Day 7 (the day you land in Singapore is Day 1).
With no positive results detected in these tests, the government removed them from the requirements in mid-October, when the VTL was expanded to several countries including the USA and the UK.
For arrivals in Singapore from Friday 3rd December 2021, you must attend a supervised self-administered ART test at a Quick Test Centre (QTC) or Combined Testing Centre (CTC) on Day 3 and Day 7.
Children aged 2 and below in the current calendar year are not required to undergo Day 3 and Day 7 ART tests.
“To better detect and contain the Omicron variant as scientists around the world study its characteristics, we are enhancing our testing protocols and procedures for travellers arriving in Singapore after 2 December 2021, 2359 hours (Singapore time).”
“These measures will enable us to minimise importation and allow prompt detection and isolation of Omicron cases.”Ministry of Health
Here’s a summary of the days on which you’ll need to book and attend your post arrival tests, based on your VTL arrival flight.
VTL post-arrival test schedule
The test schedule is based on the actual immigration clearance day, so if your flight is delayed and you pass through immigration in Singapore after midnight (i.e. on the next day, compared to your original plan), or has to be rescheduled to operate the following day instead, the Day 3 and Day 7 test schedule also slips by one day.
You must bring your photo ID with you, and take your test by 9.30pm Singapore Time on each nominated day.Be careful! 9.30pm is the latest closing time for a sole QTC (in Bishan). In reality, depending on the QTC/CTC most convenient for you, you’ll need to be tested before the more typical 5pm closing time.
You do not need to self-isolate after the Day 3 or Day 7 tests. Results are provided by SMS within 1 hour, but you can leave the QTC/CTC immediately after the test itself.
If you are leaving Singapore within a week of arriving on the VTL, you won’t have to undergo both of the post-arrival ART tests.
If your time of departure (scheduled flight, bus or ferry timing) from Singapore is:
- before 9.30pm on the day of test, you will be exempted from taking your scheduled ART test.
- on or after 9.30pm on the day of test, you are still required to take their scheduled ART test on that day.
The good news here is that these supervised ART tests at S$15 each including GST are significantly cheaper than the former Day 3 and Day 7 PCR tests on the original VTL, which cost S$94 each.
You must make payment through cashless modes such as Mastercard, NETS, PayNow and Visa. Cash will not be accepted at the QTCs or CTCs.
FAQs for the new Day 3 and Day 7 tests are available here.
QTC / CTC locations
There are 41 QTC locations and 9 CTC locations available across the city, for a total of 50 options, with various operating hours.
The earliest centre opens at 8am and the latest closing time is 9.30pm, but do bear in mind most centres are operating only during a 10am-5pm window, with some weekend closures too.
You must book an appointment before your visit. If you do not have a local mobile phone number, you won’t be able to make an appointment and will instead have to register in-person at the QTC/CTC.
Unfortunately there will now be four separate COVID-19 tests to complete when travelling to Singapore on the VTL, for those touching down from 3rd December 2021, which slightly increases the associated costs.
|VTL country pre-departure*||~S$30||~S$30|
* Prices vary between providers and locations.
These costs are in addition to those that may apply when travelling to selected VTL countries, with the latest testing requirements for outbound travel from Singapore shown below.
Testing before travelling to selected countries
based on fully vaccinated travellers departing from Singapore by air
|Country||Test type||Test timing||Exemptions|
||48h before departure||—|
|Japan||PCR||72h before departure
||Age 5 or below|
|Myanmar||PCR||72h before arrival||Age 5 or below|
|Qatar||PCR||48h before departure
||Age 3 or below
Vaccinated Qataris and residents
|PCR 2 days before departure
ART 1 day before departure
|Age 5 or below|
|Taiwan||PCR||2 days before departure
Currently pre-departure ART tests in Singapore are available for around S$30 and PCR tests from S$107, based on our most recent analysis, with good value home testing options also in the mix.
This cost increase isn’t too significant of course, it’s the inconvenience of attending the Day 3 and Day 7 tests that’s likely to be the more off-putting factor, especially for travellers who have returned to work after their trip and will potentially need to have their test on a working day.
There are no changes to the pre-departure ART or PCR test requirement for those travelling to Singapore on the VTL. The test must be professionally administered, even if it is an ART test.
Those arriving from Category 1 countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan, however, will be required to take a PDT (ART or PCR) within two days of departure, if arriving on or after 3rd December 2021.
Currently these Category 1 travellers are exempt from pre-departure testing, so from 3rd December 2021 it means all air travellers to Singapore will require pre-departure testing.
Only PCR test results will be accepted for arrivals from Category 4 countries, which is the same policy currently in force.
Currently those arriving in Singapore from Category 2, 3 and 4 countries do not need to have an on-arrival PCR test in Singapore.
These travellers instead have an SHN exit test (PCR) on Day 7 or Day 10 respectively.
For arrivals from 3rd December 2021, on-arrival PCR testing at S$125 will apply to all passengers, regardless of travel history.
Is this permanent?
It’s too early to tell, however MOH has stated that “these enhanced measures will apply for four weeks in the first instance, and will be reviewed and extended if necessary”.
Singapore remains wedded to its list of operating VTL countries for now, with six new ones coming on board in mid-December, but it was somewhat inevitable that the testing regime would be beefed up to try and catch cases both before and after arrival.
Unfortunately this means slightly more cost but most of all more inconvenience when travelling on the quarantine-free scheme.
If you are currently in a VTL country and travelling to Singapore in the next few days, do note that the new requirements come into effect for those arriving on Friday 3rd December 2021 onwards.
(Cover Photo: Raffles Medical)