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Maldives scraps pre-departure PCR tests for unvaccinated children and adults

The Maldives goes endemic: Unvaccinated children aged 1-17 now exempt from pre-departure PCR testing, along with unvaccinated adults too, with quarantine and mask mandates dropped.

Earlier this month the popular holiday island archipelago of the Maldives finally dropped its requirement for pre-departure PCR testing completely for fully vaccinated visitors heading to the country, saving most Singapore residents around S$100 each on two-way quarantine-free trips.

One pre-departure testing (PDT) element remained though, which was for all unvaccinated travellers aged one or over.

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For many families, either Singapore-based or not, that meant it would be no them, but their younger children needing a pre-departure test, when heading to the luxury holiday retreat, meaning outbound testing costs and hassle hadn’t necessarily gone away completely.

Unvaccinated travellers no longer require a PDT

This week the Maldives has become only the second country on Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) list no longer requiring any COVID-19 pre-departure testing or proof of vaccination for travellers (Saudi Arabia is the other).

All 30 of Singapore’s other VTL countries require at least one of the above for travellers, though in fairness most do exempt unvaccinated younger children from pre-departure testing, given that they cannot be vaccinated in many countries.

All quarantine requirements for unvaccinated travellers arriving in the Maldives, previously set at 14 days, have also been lifted.

(Image: Maldives Health Protection Agency)

The news comes as part of the formal cessation of the Maldives’ COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which was revoked on 13th March 2022.

The country’s mandatory mask-wearing policy has also been removed, meaning it is no longer a requirement to wear a mask at the airport, when travelling domestically, when indoors, or when in enclosed public spaces.

However, face masks will continue to be required inside health facilities, while their use remains recommended in a variety of settings for high-risk individuals, or for those with flu-like symptoms.

Families benefit most

For most of our readers heading to the Maldives from Singapore, full vaccination means they were already exempt from pre-departure testing since 5th March 2022, however the big benefit here is for families with younger children, who are not necessarily fully vaccinated at the time of travel.

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Even after pre-departure PCR testing for fully vaccinated adults was removed by the Maldives, unvaccinated children aged 1-17 still required one, which for Singapore-based VTL travellers effectively meant that for those with unvaccinated children aged 1-12, there were still costs involved.

Travelling with unvaccinated children to the Maldives still meant stumping up for a pre-departure test, until now. (Photo: Shutterstock)

For example, a family of four heading from Singapore to the Maldives including two fully vaccinated adults and two children aged nine and 11 who had not been fully vaccinated would be eligible to use the VTL on their way back from the Maldives to Singapore, but the two children would still need a pre-departure PCR test before leaving Singapore at the start of their trip.

Thankfully that’s no longer required as part of this change, saving that family around S$200, not to mention removing the hassle of taking the children to be tested, and the unpleasantness of the process (it’s not very nice as an adult, so I imagine it’s even less fun for them!).

Process travelling to the Maldives

Heading to the Maldives (on a VTL trip from Singapore, for example) is now a very straightforward process indeed. Travellers can take any flight to the country, since there are no designated VTL services in the Singapore – Male direction.

The Maldives. (Photo: Anantara)

Here are the basic requirements for a quarantine-free trip:

  • Complete a “Traveller Health Declaration” within 48 hours of departure to the Maldives through the IMUGA site.
  • No pre-departure or on-arrival COVID-19 testing applies.
  • Travellers who are not Maldivian and are not tourists (e.g. Singaporean business travellers) are advised to complete a PCR test between Day 3 and Day 5 after arrival.
  • Complete a “Traveller Health Declaration” within 48 hours of departure from the Maldives through the IMUGA site.

Be careful!

As is often the case, these new rules have not yet been promulgated into the IATA Timatic system, used by many airlines, nor are they reflected by Singapore Airlines at the time of writing, so you may come up against the former PCR requirement for unvaccinated travellers at the check-in desk, even though it has been officially dropped.

If you’re making a trip in the coming days, with unvaccinated children for example, it may be safer to comply with the test requirement for them until these sources have been updated, since it will be impossible to then get a PCR test and still make it on board your flight if the airline digs its heels in at the counter.

More VTL flights from the Maldives to Singapore

Only recently we were reporting the good news that SIA’s Male route was picking up the new Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft in place of older ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-800s, for a much-improved passenger experience including aircraft-wide IFE, Wi-Fi and flat-bed seats in Business Class.

Even better news is that the designated VTL flight schedule on the route has been doubled from 1st April, meaning both the daytime and overnight flights back from Male to Singapore are set to be part of the quarantine-free VTL programme, as shown below.

27th March 2022 - 31st March 2022

  Days
M T W T F S S
 bgcolor= SQ437
737-8 MAX
MLE
23:25
SIN

07:05*

* Next day

Important

From 1st April 2022, there will be no more designated VTL flights to Singapore.
All fully vaccinated travellers can enter quarantine-free on any flight operated by any airline on any route.

Here are our dedicated articles covering what to expect in both of the new cabins on SIA’s 737 MAX, when flying to and from the Maldives.

VTL countries still requiring pre-departure testing

Exactly half of Singapore’s 32-strong VTL list – 16 countries – still require a pre-departure test for fully vaccinated travellers in the outbound direction from Changi.

You’ll be subject to testing requirements when travelling to the following countries, in addition to VTL testing 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
Brunei PCR 48h before departure
or
72h before departure (Singapore RGL)
Fiji PCR
or
ART
PCR 2 days before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 11 or below
Hong Kong PCR
48h before departure
Israel PCR 72h before departure Isreali citizens and residents
Myanmar PCR 72h before arrival Age 5 or below
New Zealand PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 1 or below
Philippines PCR
or
ART
PCR 48h before departure
or
ART 24h before departure
Age 3 or below
Qatar PCR 48h before departure
Age 3 or below
&
Vaccinated Qataris and residents
South Korea PCR 2 days before departure Age 5 or below
ART 1 day before departure also accepted from 23 May 2022
USA PCR
or
ART
1 day before departure Age 1 or below

If you are heading to a country requiring pre-departure testing, be sure to check our comprehensive updated guide to the cheapest PCR and ART options available in Singapore.

There is no longer any pre-departure test required for fully vaccinated passengers travelling to the following VTL countries:

  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • India
  • Italy
  • Maldives
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • UAE
  • UK

Maldives VTL testing costs

Here are the approximate testing costs for a Singapore – Maldives – Singapore trip, using the VTL on your return, now that no pre-departure test (including for unvaccinated children) is required on the outbound journey.

🇲🇻 VTL
Singapore Maldives
COVID-19 Testing 

Test Cost
Maldives pre-departure (clinic ART)* ~S$20
Singapore on-arrival (self-ART) ~S$5
Total ~S$25

* Prices vary based on provider

With no more expensive PCR pre-departure testing even for unvaccinated travellers heading to the Maldives, a VTL trip to and from the islands should now pick up only around S$25 per person in testing costs, one of the cheapest and most straightforward on Singapore’s quarantine-free list.

This also follows the relaxation of a supervised ART method for Singapore’s on-arrival test to a self-swab ART, using your own kit available for around S$5.

Do note that some resorts in the Maldives only offer PCR tests, though it’s possible to arrange a professionally-administered ART test at many properties, and at Male Airport itself in the terminal for US$15 (S$20) before you head to the check-in desk.

If you prefer to be prepared in advance, do check with your hotel, since you may need to budget for a pre-departure PCR on the way back to Singapore in some cases, typically costing around S$200!

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Remember if you have recently recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days with documentary proof, you are now exempt from all pre-departure testing, on-arrival testing and isolation requirements when travelling to Singapore, which would make your Maldives trip completely free as far as testing is concerned.

Summary

2022 looks set to be the year many countries around the world treat COVID-19 as a truly endemic disease, and this policy change from the Maldives with no vaccination or testing requirements, plus an almost complete removal of mask-wearing mandates, is the sort of thing we can expect to see in other countries too.

Singapore will hopefully start to take steps in this direction soon, probably starting with a scrapping (or at least a serious simplification) of the VTL scheme in the weeks ahead, hopefully ditching the designated flights concept and easing testing requirements.

In the meantime families planning a quarantine-free Maldives trip with unvaccinated children will now be able to save potentially hundreds of dollars, with no more testing involved on the journey to the island paradise.

(Cover Photo: The Indian Hotels Company Limited)

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