One of the most anticipated international border relaxations for Singapore residents has been the potential for two-way quarantine-free travel to and from Western Australia, with regular flights between the Lion City and Perth originally set to reconnect families and eager tourists starting on 5th February.
Unfortunately it’s bad news from Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan, who has chickened out of the idea in wake of large Omicron case numbers elsewhere in Australia, by announcing that his “set in stone” date for border reopening is being… well… unset from stone completely!
McGowan had previously said only “an unforeseen catastrophe” would delay border reopening.
The latest plan
In a press conference yesterday evening McGowan said that Western Australia will now continue to impose its “hard border” until further notice.
This requires international arrivals to:
- have a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure; and
- have G2G pass; and
- quarantine for 14 days; and
- conduct COVID-19 PCR testing on days 1, 6, 9 and 12.
“From February 5th the hard border will stay…”
“…it would be reckless and irresponsible to open up now.”Mark McGowan, Western Australia Premier
Western Australia will also impose 14 days quarantine on interstate (domestic Australia) arrivals, who can enter if they have had a booster dose (if eligible) and have returned a negative rapid antigen test (RAT/ART) within 24 hours.
The state will review its future border decisions “over the course of the next month”, according to McGowan, effectively meaning the delay for border reopening is indefinite, given that any number of reviews could conclude the ‘status quo’ should remain in force.
What it means for Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines has been in a bit of a yo-yo with its Perth Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) lately.
While the carrier launched its quarantine-free VTL flights with gusto back in mid-December 2021, offering flights from 5 February 2022, last week there was a strange postponement announced until March 2022, leaving low-cost subsidiary Scoot to launch the VTL.
By Monday this week SIA had a change of heart and reinstated its own Perth VTL plans from 5th February.
Singapore Airlines has now wiped all availability on its Singapore – Perth flights until 1st April 2022.
Designated VTL flights by SIA and Scoot in the Perth – Singapore direction, however, are still loaded from 5th February 2022.
Remember there is nothing to stop both airlines operating designated VTL flights from Australia to Singapore, which do not require any approval from the Australian side.
Indeed SIA already commenced VTL flights from Brisbane to Singapore on 15th January 2022, a week ahead of Queensland relaxing its entry requirements for overseas travellers.
Update from Singapore Airlines
(21st January 1pm)
- Singapore Airlines (SIA) will not begin ‘For Eligible Passengers Only’ (FEPO) flights from Singapore to Perth from 5 February 2022 as previously announced, after the Western Australian authorities delayed the reopening of the state’s borders.
- SIA remains guided by Western Australia’s regulations, and we will adjust our flights accordingly. We would like to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused.
- Please note that SIA’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights from Perth to Singapore are unaffected, and will start as planned on 5 February 2022.
- Affected SIA customers who booked directly with us may use our Assistance Request Form to seek a refund of the unused portion of their ticket, if eligible. Those who require urgent assistance may reach out to their local Singapore Airlines reservation office. For bookings made through a travel agency or partner airline, customers should contact them directly for assistance.
What about other airlines?
It now seems unlikely that Jetstar Asia will pursue its four times weekly Perth flights from 12th February 2022, given the latest border restrictions.
Qantas is also loading its Perth – Singapore flights from 27th March, but again “what’s the point?” springs to mind, unless there is some solid indication that two-way quarantine-free travel is a possibility.
Where you can travel in Australia
Singapore citizens can now travel to any Australian state apart from Western Australia and Queensland, which reopens its international borders from 22nd January.
Direct flights are available to Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney, from where travellers can make domestic connections to the Australian Central Territory and Tasmania, both of which are accepting international arrivals (based on travel history within the last 14 days).
This allows Australians (including permanent residents) and New Zealand passport holders usually resident in Australia to fly into these cities from any overseas country, while the following citizens are also eligible, when travelling directly from their home countries:
These are the prevailing requirements of the Australian Federal Government for entry to the country, which are not state-by-state decisions.
While countries like the UK are seeing their Omicron wave as the end of the pandemic and a reason to loosen restrictions, Western Australia (a bit like like China and Hong Kong) frankly seems frightened of its own shadow when it comes to COVID-19.
Before the pandemic, Singapore travellers made up the largest group of visitors to Perth, so this news will will certainly be devastating for the thousands waiting to reconnect with family there, or simply enjoy a holiday.
Sadly, after declaring a “set in stone” date for reopening based on 90% full vaccination, ‘Westralia’ has apparently been totally spooked by what seems to be the mildest variant of the virus so far.
Let’s hope the state joins the rest of the country, and the world, sooner rather than later.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)