Back in early December, Singapore announced a shift to daily post-arrival testing for those arriving in (or returning to) the country via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme from 7th December, to reduce potential Omicron COVID-19 variant spread.
Initially, this enhanced testing regime was sent to last for four weeks, and therefore provisionally end on 2nd January 2022, however the Ministry of Health (MOH) has now announced that the requirement will be maintained for another four weeks.
Extension to 30th January 2022
The MOH will extend the daily post-arrival testing regime to remain in force until 30th January 2022, 11.59pm at the earliest, meaning VTL travellers will continue to face daily swabs from arrival in Singapore (Day 1) right through to Day 7.
“We previously announced that all VTL travellers must undergo COVID-19 tests up till Day 7 of their arrival and strictly adhere to this enhanced testing regime… for four weeks in the first instance (until 2 January 2022).
“The enhancement has proven effective in detecting imported Omicron cases amongst VTL travellers and reducing onward transmission. As such, we will be extending the enhanced testing regime for an additional four weeks and will review it as the situation evolves.”Government of Singapore
Additional tests will remain the more convenient antigen rapid (ART) variety, minimising costs (~S$7 per kit) and allowing self-swab at home, with online declaration.
The requirement to visit a Quick Test Centre (QTC) or Combined Test Centre (CTC) on Day 3 and Day 7 to conduct a supervised ART swab (S$15 per person per visit), announced on 30th November 2021 and effective from early December 2021, will also remain.
The testing schedule
For those not familiar, here’s how the daily testing schedule on arrival in Singapore as a VTL passenger works.
This regime will continue for those entering Singapore via the VTL until Sunday 30th January 2022 at the earliest.
The post arrival ART tests will also continue to apply to those arriving in Singapore via the VTL (Land) from Malaysia, and will therefore be in force for both VTL (Air) and VTL (Land) arrangements.
Here’s an example for someone arriving in Singapore via the VTL (arrival day = Day 1).
Singapore VTL arrival testing regime
(until 30th January 2022)
|Day||Test Type||Test Location||Cost|
QTC / CTC
QTC / CTC
These tests are in addition to the mandatory pre-departure test (PCR or ART) taken in your VTL country within 2 days of your flight to Singapore, typically costing from around S$30, for an overall one-way testing cost of around S$210 per person.
Children aged two and below in the calendar year of arrival in Singapore (e.g. for arrivals in 2021, those who were born on 1st January 2019 or later) continue to be exempt from pre-departure and post-arrival testing.
Day 2, 4, 5 and 6 self-tests
You must complete the Day 2, 4, 5 and 6 self-tests with approved kits authorised for use in Singapore, as outlined here by the Health Sciences Authority, however these kits are not provided to travellers on arrival, they must instead be self procured.
That’s not a complicated rule to follow, thankfully, with outlets like Watsons, Guardian and Unity pharmacies stocking these kits for around S$6-7 per test, but remember you must not go out to purchase them during the self-isolation period between your on-arrival PCR test and the negative result notification (typically 4-6 hours).
These ART kits are designed for use by consumers and do not require a doctor’s prescription or authority letter to purchase them. Instructions are relatively simple to follow and results take 15 minutes.
Also, you may have recently received complimentary ART kits from the Singapore Government, which are also valid for use by VTL travellers in Day 2, Day 4, Day 5 and Day 6 tests, if you still have some left.
When to test
You can take your ART self-swab at home or in your hotel at any time on the designated day (Days 2, 4, 5 and 6), however you are required to self-administer your test before leaving your place of accommodation that day.
During this 7-day period, other than on days when they go out for their supervised tests, [VTL] travellers must test negative on their self-administered ART before going out for activities on that day.Singapore Ministry of Health
You should submit your test results immediately after obtaining a valid result, via a weblink for results submission, which will be provided by email after your arrival in Singapore.
Even if you do not intend to leave your place of accommodation on Days 2, 4, 5 and 6, you must still complete your test and submit the results that day, so make sure you do so by 11.59pm, otherwise you may be required to SHN and / or be fined.
Home delivery kits
If you’re stocking up on approved kits during your self-isolation period after the on-arrival test at Changi Airport on Day 1, you can receive them via home delivery services like Grab or PandaMart.
If you clear immigration from your VTL flight late on Day 1 (e.g. at 11pm), and you don’t have any approved kits to use at your accommodation for your Day 2 test, you may have no choice but to do this, since by the time your negative on-arrival test comes through it will be Day 2 already, and you can’t go out on Day 2 before testing yourself!
This is a confusing restriction, especially for tourists visiting, and could have been solved simply by providing at least one ART kit (or ideally all four) to each passenger on arrival.
If you are a visitor staying in a hotel without access to mobile delivery apps, Singapore’s ICA recommends contacting your hotel concierge to arrange ART test kits to be delivered to your room. I’d like to think at least one person present at the meeting where this was all agreed said “hang on, isn’t this all starting to get a bit… confusing?!”.
Ideally, Singapore residents should have an adequate supply of ART test kits at home before embarking on their VTL trips, to save any hassle in this area on their return.
What if you test positive?
If you test positive from a self-swab Day 2, Day 4, Day 5 or Day 6 test, the following procedure applies:
- Follow MOH’s Protocol 2 and self-isolate immediately.
- Book a confirmatory PCR test (free) at a Combined Test Centre (CTC) via the booking link provided as soon as possible, and no later than 4pm on the day after testing positive via the ART kit.
- Take private transport, taxi or private hire car to the CTC, and return to your place of accommodation immediately after your test (no public transport).
- Continue to self-isolate and await the result.
- If your confirmatory PCR test falls on an VTL ART testing day (either at your own accommodation or at a QTC / CTC), you do not need to complete it / attend.
If the confirmatory PCR result is negative, you’ll no longer need to self-isolate and can continue with the post-arrival testing regime (if it is still applicable).
If the confirmatory PCR result is positive, further isolation and treatment measures will be imposed. You should remain in your place of accommodation, and not come into close proximity with any other person. The Ministry of Health will contact you with further details on how your case will be managed.
However you feel personally about the necessity of these additional tests, they are part of the process all VTL travellers agreed to follow, and they are designed to protect public health.
Day 3 and Day 7 tests
Day 3 and Day 7 post-arrival tests also continue to follow their previous testing regime, which took effect on 3rd December 2021, and take the form of a supervised self-swab at a Quick Test Centre (QTC) or Combined Testing Centre (CTC).
You do not need to undergo an unsupervised self-swab ART at your place of accommodation on Days 3 and 7, regardless of what time on those days you will attend your supervised swab, and you can go about your activities as normal.
The cost is S$15 per test including GST, and you must make payment through cashless modes such as Mastercard, NETS, PayNow and Visa. Cash will not be accepted at the QTCs or CTCs.
Remember to bring your photo ID with you when attending.
QTC / CTC locations
There are 115 QTC/CTC locations available across the city, with various operating hours.
Apart from a single 24-hour option (Intemedical at Ang Mo Kio), 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, so do plan in advance.
You should 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.
FAQs for all the post-arrival ART tests are available here.
Leaving Singapore within 7 days?
If you are leaving Singapore within a week of arriving on the VTL, you will be exempt from taking your scheduled ART on the day of your departure (and, obviously, on all subsequent days).
Your day of departure from Singapore is defined as the scheduled day of departure of your flight or ferry, or the day you clear departure immigration, if leaving via the land border.
For example, if you arrive via the VTL on Monday (Day 1) at 6am and you leave on Thursday (Day 4) at 10pm, you will have to complete the Day 1 (on-arrival) test, Day 2 self-swab test and Day 3 supervised swab test at a QTC / CTC, but no further tests thereafter.
VTL testing requirements from Singapore
In addition to these tests when returning to Singapore, you’ll also need a pre-departure test when travelling to selected VTL countries, as you can see from the following updated list (click to expand):
Some countries also apply on-arrival and post-arrival testing for those coming from Singapore.
For a VTL round-trip to and from South Korea with a stay of eight days or longer, for example, travellers are now looking at 13 COVID-19 tests per person in total (pre-departure, on-arrival, Day 3, Day 5, Day 6/7, pre-departure, then these seven Singapore arrival tests)!
Relaxation for non-VTL arrivals
MOH also announced as part of its year-end update that those arriving from Category 2 to 4 countries will no longer need to take an on-arrival COVID-19 PCR test at Changi Airport.
Instead those arriving from 8th January 2022 onwards will revert to the previous system of having a single PCR test at the end of their 7- / 10-day SHN period.
With the Omicron COVID-19 variant still spreading rapidly across the world, Singapore is remaining cautious about the risks, despite increasing reports that it is a milder (albeit more contagious) form of the virus.
Many arriving VTL travellers have already been detected as Omicron cases through the more stringent testing regime put in place earlier this month, reinforcing the view that an extension of these measures is necessary.
While this remains an annoying hassle, at least you can complete most of the tests at home or in your hotel, extra costs are low, and there have still been no additional PCR tests added at this stage.
VTL arrival testing costs stand at around S$180 per passenger, in addition to the pre-departure test from overseas and any ‘outbound’ testing regime imposed when travelling to some VTL countries, like the USA and South Korea.
Will the extension of this daily ART test regime until late January 2022 put you off travelling on the VTL? Let us know in the comments section below.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)