Last week India introduced a surprise requirement for all international arriving travellers from six Asian countries, including Singapore, to once again have a negative pre-departure COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of departure, a mandate first dropped way back in February 2022.
The policy change came about “in the context of the evolving trajectory of COVID-19 in some countries, especially China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Japan”, according to health officials in India, leaving many bemused how Singapore made it to the list, with cases here at their lowest level in over a year.
Indeed Singapore was recording daily COVID-19 case totals some 12 times higher than it is now back in February 2022, when India dropped the pre-departure test requirements for travellers from the Lion City!
Adding to the confusion, the news was announced only 24 hours after the Indian High Commission officially denied reports that travellers from Singapore would be included in the list of those requiring a pre-departure test to travel to India – which turned out to be completely false.
Transit passengers are now included
Originally, transit passengers were not included in the remit, with airports in India happily telling travellers there was no need to be tested if they were originating in a non-high risk country, and merely passing through the transit area of an airport in a high risk country en-route to India.
Singapore Airlines had the same travel advice on its website, with no tests required, for example, when flying from Sydney to Delhi via Singapore with the carrier.
That situation has now changed, with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare clarifying that transiting in one of the high-risk countries like Singapore, even without clearing immigration, means the pre-departure PCR test requirement is imposed on the traveller.
In other words, any transit though Singapore Changi Airport now triggers the requirement for a pre-departure PCR test when travelling to India as your final destination, even when originating in non-high risk countries like Australia, Indonesia and the USA.
For example if you are travelling from Sydney to Bengaluru on the non-stop Qantas QF67 flight, you will not be required to have a pre-departure PCR test, but if you opt for the Singapore Airlines itinerary from Sydney to Bengaluru via Changi (SQ212 then SQ510), you will require a pre-departure PCR test.
Australia’s current COVID-19 infection rate is double that of Singapore, but that’s (sadly) irrelevant!
This will be an expensive addition to trip costs, particularly for families, with a PCR test in Sydney including a certificate for travel purposes typically costing around AU$80-100.
In the USA, also a low risk country on India’s classification, the impact can be even worse with PCR testing costing upwards of US$180 (S$240)!
The pre-departure PCR test rule now effectively applies to all passengers travelling on board flights operating from high risk countries to India, regardless of their original origin point (if they transited in a high risk country).
Singapore Airlines has already updated its Travel Advisories page to reflect the new policy.
The mandatory pre-departure PCR test has to be conducted within 72 hours of departure to India at the first embarkation point, and has been applicable to those arriving in India from 10am on 1st January 2023.
It applies to those aged 12 or above arriving from and transiting through the following countries:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Affected passengers must complete the Air Suvidha Form prior to departure, including the requirement to upload the negative RT-PCR test certificate (max. 1MB).
While Delhi Airport runs the Air Suvidha system, it is mandatory for all travellers from high risk countries when arriving at any airport in India on an international flight.
A random 2% of international travellers (aged 12+) will also undergo a PCR test on arrival in India, which applies to all international arrivals, even from low risk countries.
This additional imposition on transit travellers originating in non-high risk countries but travelling via a high risk country en-route to India will see all those using Singapore Airlines via Changi affected, in addition to those using JAL or ANA via Tokyo and Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, all popular stopover points particularly for those flying from the USA and Australia.
The requirement applies even if you remain wholly inside the transit area at these airports, and regardless of how long or short your connection is.
This will add significant cost for travellers originating in these countries, with some eye-watering PCR test bills typically charged overseas, unlike the wide range of S$50-100 options here in Singapore itself.
(Cover Photo: Changi Airport Group)