Back to top

Written Reply by Minister for Transport S Iswaran to Parliamentary Question on Measures to Ensure Only Fully COVID-19 Vaccinated Visitors Can Enter Singapore

14 Sep 2021 In Parliament

Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Transport as Singapore prepares to open up its borders more extensively once a large majority of its population has received their full COVID-19 vaccination, what measures will be in place to ensure that only visitors to Singapore with authentic evidence of proof of COVID-19 vaccination in their home countries are allowed to enter Singapore. 

Reply by Minister for Transport S Iswaran:

1.     I thank Mr Dennis Tan for your question on border re-opening for vaccinated travellers, and safeguards in this re-opening. Ms Janet Ang, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, Mr Seah Kian Peng and Mr Christopher de Souza filed related questions for the 13 and 14 September sittings1; I will address their questions in my reply.  

Relaxation of border measures for vaccinated travellers 

2.     As a small and open economy, Singapore’s survival depends on being open and connected to the world. In our transition towards becoming a COVID-19 resilient nation, we need to reopen general travel safely in a carefully calibrated manner. 

3.     A year ago, we began to open unilaterally to general travellers from very low risk places. More than 35,000 travellers have entered via this scheme over the past year, and it has not resulted in any community spread. The list of places has changed in response to the COVID-19 situation around the world; today only Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are on the list of Category I places that we have unilaterally opened to. Travellers from these Category I places take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on arrival at Changi airport, and self-isolate until their on-arrival PCR test results are known. They are free to move about if their PCR test results are negative, and they do not need to serve Stay-Home Notice (SHN). 

Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) 

4.     Now that more than 80% of our population in Singapore is fully vaccinated, we have decided to pilot a new Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL), starting with Germany and Brunei. Since last week (8 September 2021), fully vaccinated travellers from Germany and Brunei have been able to enter Singapore without the need to serve SHN. Instead, travellers take pre-departure, on-arrival and two post-arrival PCR tests. In response to Ms Ang, we do not require serology testing under the VTL. 

Vaccination for short-term visitors 

5.     Mr Gan asked about COVID-19 vaccinations for short-term visitors. Since 18 August 2021, the Ministry of Health has extended the COVID-19 National Vaccination Programme to short-term pass holders who have been in Singapore for at least 60 days continuously. This further improves the protection of our domestic population. Shortterm visitors may also visit private healthcare providers offering World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing (WHO EUL) vaccines under the Special Access Route (SAR) framework. The Ministry of Health does not track the number of short-term visitors vaccinated under the SAR framework. 

Proof of vaccination 

6.     Ms Ang and Mr Tan asked how we recognise and verify COVID-19 vaccination records issued overseas. 

7.     For the VTLs with Germany and Brunei, non-residents must apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass (VTP) before their arrival in Singapore. The vaccination status is verified by the airlines before boarding, as well as by Singapore authorities as part of the entry process. Digitally-verifiable vaccination certificates may be read and verified by scanning the QR code with a suitable application to determine if the certificate is valid and authentic. Non digitally-verifiable vaccination certificates will need to contain a standardised set of fields, which will be manually checked to determine if the certificate meets Singapore’s entry requirements. 

8.     Singaporeans and PRs returning to Singapore under the VTL do not need to apply for a VTP. They should present proof of their vaccination status to ICA officers on arrival at Changi Airport or using an electronic or physical copy of their vaccination certificate. 

9.     We are also in discussion with several other countries and regions on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, including the exchange of public keys for the verification of digitally-verifiable certificates and the exchange of specimen copies for the verification of non digitally-verifiable ones. We are also closely monitoring reports about security vulnerabilities related to these vaccination certificates. 

Travel history 

10.    Mr Seah asked how we will ensure that passengers under the VTL with Germany do not travel unrestricted within Europe before coming to Singapore. 

11.    This is a matter that the inter-agency team considered very carefully when we were designing the VTL. All travellers to Singapore today are required to declare their travel history via the electronic Health Declaration Card (eHDC). This declaration is not unique to the VTL, and has been in place since March 2020. False declarations of travel history are criminal offences under Singapore law, and may be punishable upon conviction by a fine and/or imprisonment. Foreigners may face additional administrative measures, such as the shortening or revocation of their visit pass to remain in Singapore. Conviction may also affect their ability to obtain or sponsor immigration facilities in the future. In addition, travellers entering Singapore under the VTL pilot with Germany must also present proof of their vaccination in either Germany or Singapore – vaccination certificates issued in other places will not be accepted. 

12.    All travellers should be responsible when travelling on the VTL, and diligent in complying with its requirements. In particular, they should strictly abide by the travel history and testing requirements, including the Day 3 and Day 7 tests in Singapore. These safeguards have been put in place to reduce the likelihood of imported cases, and quickly identify and isolate those who do test positive, to minimise the risk of community spread. Irresponsible behaviour such as false declarations or missing the post-arrival tests puts the traveller and the community at risk, and undermines our ability to expand the VTL to new places. 

Further re-opening 

13.    MOT and CAAS are working closely with MOH and the Multi-Ministry Taskforce to monitor the outcomes of the VTL. If the pilot is successful, we can consider expanding the scheme to more countries and regions in the coming months. 

14.    As a small and open economy, our connectivity with the rest of the world is existential. The longer our borders remain closed, the greater the risk of lasting damage to our economy, our livelihoods and our status as an aviation hub. Cross-border travel is also important for many Singaporeans, who have to travel for work or study, or would like to reconnect with loved ones overseas. To safeguard Singaporeans’ lives and livelihoods, we will therefore take a careful, calibrated and science-based approach in reopening our borders, adjusting the safeguards when necessary as the COVID-19 situation evolves. 

 

Note(s) to Question No(s) 64: 
1 Ms Janet Ang (13 Sep, oral PQ Q*49), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (13 Sep, oral PQs Q*50 and *51), Mr Seah Kian Peng (14 Sep, oral PQ Q*65), Mr Christopher de Souza (14 Sep, written PQs Q11 and 12)