Despite Western Australia battening down the hatches with its deferral announcement for quarantine-free arrivals yesterday, the rest of the country appears to be getting on with endemic COVID as planned, with the government announcing a relaxation of pre-departure testing (PDT) requirements for travellers from Sunday this week.
The cheaper rapid antigen test (RAT / ART) method will now be accepted for entry into all states from 1 am on Sunday 23rd January 2022, provided the test is taken within 24 hours of departure.
New PDT requirements
Pre-departure testing for international arrivals is an Australian Federal Government matter, and therefore applies when flying from overseas into any Australian state, however the on-arrival and post-arrival testing regime does differ from place to place, since this is decided by individual state governments.
For those touching down in Australia from overseas on or after 23rd January 2022, the new pre-departure COVID-19 testing options will be either:
- A PCR test within three days of departure; or
- A RAT (ART) test within 24 hours of departure
Note that those taking a PCR test can do so within three calendar days of the departure date of their first flight to Australia (i.e. on the day of departure or anytime on the preceding three days). For those taking a RAT (ART) however, the test must be conducted within 24 hours of the departure time of their first flight to Australia.
Those aged 4 or below at the time of check-in are exempt from pre-departure testing when travelling internationally to Australia.
For a RAT (ART), the test must be undertaken by or under the supervision of a medical practitioner (e.g., pharmacist, general practitioner, nurse, pathologist, pathology collector or trained personnel at airport-based testing stations).
Australia PDT Requirements
Your COVID-19 test result can be paper-based or electronic. Results must refer to the following mandatory requirements:
- traveller name and date of birth (age at time of test or passport number accepted, if date of birth not listed)
- the test result (such as ‘negative’ or ‘not detected’)
- the method of test conducted e.g., NAA test or RAT
- the brand and make of the test (for RAT tests)
- the date (for RAT also include time) of specimen collection for the accepted COVID-19 test
- that the specimen for the test was collected, and the test was carried out by or under the supervision of and, signed by an authorised person
Allowing travellers the option to take an ART test will significantly reduce costs, with PCR tests in Singapore on average costing around S$130, though there are a good number of options in the S$98 – S$115 range.
Pre-departure ART tests including a certificate for travel, meanwhile, cost around S$39 on average in Singapore, with multiple options in the S$21 – S$30 range.
Travellers will be able to make similar savings when departing from other countries too, for example a pre-departure ART test at London Heathrow Airport costs GBP 25, compared to GBP 59 for a PCR test.
For families in particular the savings do start to add up.
Convenience is another factor, with most providers in Singapore sending through your ART test results within just one hour of being swabbed, meaning even a 24-hour pre-departure window should be ample for most travellers.
Singapore is currently conducting a pilot exercise allowing travellers to perform a supervised self-swab by video call with provider Doctor Anywhere.
This costs S$12.84, in addition to the cost of the approved test kit itself which is typically around S$7.
A certificate suitable for travel is provided, and this method is also accepted by Australia. This is therefore an ideal way to do your pre-departure test before a VTL trip without having to leave home.
Aside from the new pre-departure requirements, here’s how the post-arrival test process works for Australian states eligible visitors, including Singapore Citizens, can enter on direct flights without serving a quarantine period.
New South Wales (Sydney)
- Fully vaccinated international passengers must get a COVID-19 rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arriving and must self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
- They must also take a rapid antigen test on Day 6.
- Fully vaccinated international passengers must immediately quarantine at home or in a hotel room upon arrival in Victoria.
- They must get a rapid antigen test or a PCR test within 24 hours of arriving and continue to quarantine until they receive a negative result.
- Fully vaccinated international passengers must get tested for COVID-19 within 24 hours after arrival (RAT or PCR).
- They must quarantine at home or in other accommodation until they receive a negative result.
South Australia (Adelaide)
- Fully vaccinated international passengers must undertake a COVID-19 PCR test within 24 hours of arrival.
- Quarantine until test is taken.
Northern Territory (Darwin)
- Fully vaccinated international passengers must have an approved test within 2 hours of arrival on receipt of a RAT kit (provided).
- Further RAT tests on Day 3 and Day 6.
Other VTL countries requiring pre-departure testing
Here’s a full list of the pre-departure testing requirements when travelling from Singapore to the following VTL countries, in addition to the usual testing regime on your return:
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
Australia VTL testing costs
Here are the estimated testing costs for a Singapore – Sydney – Singapore trip example, based on the new testing requirements from 23rd January 2022.
|SG pre-departure (ART)||From S$21|
|Sydney on-arrival (ART)||~S$7|
|Sydney pre-departure (ART)*||~S$60|
|SG arrival (PCR)||S$125|
|SG Day 2 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 3 (supervised ART)||S$15|
|SG Day 4 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 5 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 6 (self ART)||~S$7|
|SG Day 7 (supervised ART)||S$15|
Prices vary between providers and locations.
This is a significant saving compared to the previous regime with a pre-departure PCR test required.
Note that the supervised ART tests on Day 3 and Day 7 will no longer apply for those arriving in Singapore from 24th January 2022 onwards, with a home / hotel room self-swab at around S$7 on Day 2 to Day 7, only required if you are leaving your accommodation that day.
Australia’s move to accept rapid antigen tests (RAT or ART) as a pre-departure requirement for international travellers from 23rd January is great news, reducing costs and increasing convenience.
A family of four could be looking at a saving of S$400 as a result of this welcome change.
We’re awaiting the finer details, though of course we expect a clinic-administered test with an appropriate travel certificate will be required.
Australia will also accept Singapore’s latest video call testing method, which could provide the most hassle-free solution for VTL travellers heading to one of the quarantine-free states.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)