Back in late December 2022, India made a surprise announcement that it would reimpose pre-departure PCR testing on travellers originating in Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Thailand from 1st January 2023, due to concerns over “an evolving COVID-19 situation”.
It was an embarrassing U-turn, coming just a day after the Indian High Commission denied reports that travellers from Singapore would be included in the list of those requiring a pre-departure test to travel to India.
As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, officials initially stated that those merely transiting in these six countries en-route to India were exempt from the testing requirement, only to clarify a few days later that in fact they were also subject to it.
All the while, no one could really explain why a traveller from Australia, which had a COVID-19 infection rate per capita double that of Singapore at the time, could arrive in India without a PCR test on a direct flight, while one who took an SIA flight from Australia via Changi did need a PCR test (from a swab taken in a low-risk country, which wouldn’t reflect an infection picked up while transiting a “high-risk” one, like Singapore!).
The whole debacle certainly hasn’t been India’s finest hour, but the good news is that some sanity has inevitably now prevailed.
PCR testing scrapped from 13th February
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has now announced that for arrivals in the country from 11am on Monday 13th February 2023, pre-departure COVID-19 PCR testing will no longer be a requirement for those aged 12 or above originating in (or transiting through) Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Thailand.
The current requirement, which is still in force for those arriving before the cutover, is for these passengers to have a pre-departure PCR test be conducted within 72 hours of departure to India from the first embarkation point.
Consequently, there will also be no need to make a health declaration via the Air Suvidha portal, for those touching down once the requirements are dropped.
Random post-arrival testing for 2% of passengers will continue, a recently re-established protocol that was in place before arrivals from these six countries suddenly had pre-departure testing imposed on them.
The new protocol has now been confirmed and published here.
One of the biggest downsides of this restriction India has been imposing on selected visitors and returning residents since 1st January 2023 is the significant hassle factor.
This was recently highlighted by The Times of India.
Ultimately this relaxation back to previous norms is good news for all involved in both Singapore, India and the other affected countries, with cross-border travel returning to pre-pandemic norms.
In a happy coincidence, Singapore will also scrap its last remaining COVID-19 border restrictions on 13th February 2023, removing the requirement for unvaccinated visitors and its own unvaccinated returning residents to take a pre-departure test.
This new relaxation from India will save travellers at least S$50 per person in trip costs for Singapore – India travel from next week, but on average the cost of PCR tests in Singapore is still a significant S$106, based on our most recent survey, so for many the cost has been high.
For families this has added up to a significant expense over the last six weeks or so, and don’t forget it still applies if you’re touching down in India on or before 10.59am on Monday 13th February 2023, since the relaxation kicks in only after that.
The final flights from Singapore to India on Monday 13th February 2023 which will still require all passengers (direct or transit) to have a negative pre-departure PCR test in hand are:
- SQ402: SIN – DEL (02:25 – 05:55)
- 6E54: SIN – MAA (02:45 – 04:30)
- 6E42: SIN – CCU (04:15 – 06:00)
- 6E35: SIN – TRZ (06:40 – 08:20)
- SQ422: SIN – BOM (07:45 – 10:35)
- AI347: SIN – MAA (08:50 – 10:40)
Passengers on the following flights from Singapore to India on Monday 13th February 2023 will be exempt from any pre-departure testing requirements:
- AI381: SIN – DEL (08:20 – 11:35)
- UK116: SIN – DEL (09:30 – 12:55)
- IX687: SIN – MAA (10:00 – 11:40)
- UK106: SIN – BOM (10:30 – 13:45)
- TR508: SIN – ATQ (10:50 – 15:15)
- 6E52: SIN – MAA (11:00 – 12:45)
- UK112: SIN – PNQ (11:50 -15:10)
- SQ406: SIN – DEL (16:25 – 20:00)
- And all India-bound flights thereafter
Somewhat ridiculously, Air India will need to check pre-departure PCR test certificates for all passengers departing at 08:50 to Chennai on Monday, but not for those departing 30 minutes earlier on the 08:20 flight to Delhi, since it will touch down after the edict ends!
The latest process for international arrivals to India from 11am on 13th February 2023 is more or less a rollback to the previous protocol, and will apply to those touching down from all countries, including Singapore, regardless of travel history.
- Proof of vaccination is not required for any travellers
- The Air Suvidha self-declaration form has been disbanded (again!)
- Pre-departure testing is not required for any travellers
- Mask-wearing on flights is optional
- Random 2% of travellers (aged 12+) will undergo a PCR test on arrival
Effectively, anyone who has a valid visa, or is visa-exempt for travel to India, can travel to the country once again in pre-pandemic fashion from 13th February 2023, with the exception of random on-arrival testing.
India is rescinding its requirement for those arriving from (or transiting through) Singapore to have a pre-departure PCR test from 13th February 2023, a relaxation that will also apply to those coming from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
The additional imposition on transit travellers originating in non-high risk countries but travelling via a high risk country en-route to India has seen all those using Singapore Airlines via Changi affected, in addition to those using JAL or ANA via Tokyo and Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, but thankfully that’s all ending too from next week.
Worst of all, the initial knee-jerk reaction from India has added significant costs for travellers, with some eye-watering PCR test bills typically charged overseas, not to mention the requirement to fork out S$50-100 here in Singapore itself.
Good riddance to (ill-conceived) pre-departure testing requirements like this one!
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)