The economy behind Singapore’s entry without quarantine for India and 20 other countries

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ANI |
Update:
November 22, 2021 6:59 AM STI

By Lee Kah Whye
Singapore, Nov 22 (ANI): Last week, Singapore added five more countries to its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program which allows vaccinated pleasure travelers to visit the country without the need for quarantine, bringing the number total of VTL countries to 21.
Visitors from India, Indonesia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia can soon enter Singapore by simply showing two negative COVID-19 tests – one within 48 hours of departure and one other upon arrival in Singapore.
Singapore’s health ministry announced Monday, November 15, that vaccinated travelers from India and Indonesia will be able to enter Singapore from November 29. From December 6, those from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will be able to enter the country without quarantine. .
In order to travel on the VTL, travelers must have spent at least 14 consecutive days in the country of the VTL from which the visitor is traveling. Any time spent in a specified VTL country can also count towards these 14 days. For example, if a visitor travels from India to Singapore and spent 10 days in an Indian city, but prior to that spent four days in the UK, another VTL country, that would count as the 14 days.
Additionally, travelers must apply for a Vaccinated Travel Passport (VTP) online between seven and 60 days after their intended entry into Singapore. Visitors should also purchase travel insurance with a minimum coverage of SGD 30,000 (US $ 22,000) for medical treatment and hospital charges related to COVID-19 and use Singapore’s contact tracing app. Most importantly, visitors must travel to Singapore on a designated VTL flight.
With the latest countries added, the quota of travelers allowed to enter Singapore under the VTL program will increase from 6,000 to 10,000 per day.
The Singapore Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS) said that since the VTL program began in September, a total of 24,070 travelers have entered Singapore under the program as of November 14. Of these 9,595 Singapore residents, the rest are foreigners.
Only one in a thousand travelers has tested positive for COVID-19 since the launch of the VTL.
While it looks like Indians can start booking their Singapore vacations, there is a small transportation issue that needs to be addressed. At the moment, there are no scheduled commercial passenger flights between the two countries. The only flights are cargo flights and chartered passenger flights which are organized by the Indian government to repatriate citizens who wish to leave Singapore as part of the Vande Bharat mission.
At a press conference on Nov. 15, Singapore’s Transport Minister S Iswaran said Singapore and India were discussing mutual recognition of vaccination certificates and resuming passenger flights. If the talks are successful, there will be two daily VTL flights each from Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai by November 29.
As Singapore takes the lead in the region to reopen the country to visitors by adopting a “living with COVID” policy, its financial hub rival Hong Kong is clinging to its “zero COVID” strategy. From a public health perspective, this has been a great success as Hong Kong has not had significant community transmission of the virus since May. Hong Kong officials have made it a priority to reopen its border with mainland China instead of resuming international travel. However, this may hurt its long-term reputation as an international trading center with international trade lobby groups warning that the city could lose talent and investment.

Singapore has already hosted a series of leading international conferences, including the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. The annual meeting of business and political leaders from around the world brought together names such as Sundar Pichai and Bill Gates and took place from November 16 to 19. Over 300 people attended, 80 percent in person on the resort island of Sentosa. The last in-person forum was held in Beijing in 2019.
Another big event was the Milken Institute’s two-day annual Asia Summit, led by billionaire Michael Milken’s think tank, held at the iconic Marina Bay Sands last week. This event brought together around 550 people, including 150 foreign executives.
In addition to being able to steal a march in Hong Kong, the economy seems to be very much on the mind of the Singapore government in its selection of countries for the VTL program.
The top 11 countries in the VTL program include traditional trading, trading and strategic partners such as South Korea, Germany, the UK and the US. Indonesia and India, in addition to ranking among trading partners with Singapore, are ranked second and third in tourist arrivals before the pandemic. Singapore had already started accepting visitors from China, the main source of tourist arrivals to Singapore, without the need for quarantine a year ago. However, the 21-day quarantine requirement upon return to China has been a strong deterrent for short-term leisure visitors.
Obviously, the VTL will directly benefit the hospitality and travel industry in Singapore. Tourism accounts for 4% of Singapore’s GDP, so the resumption of tourism as well as international conventions and events are a boon for the city-state. It certainly didn’t hurt a famous Singaporean brand – Singapore Airlines (SIA).
Unless there is a reciprocal agreement like the one negotiated with Germany or being discussed with India and Malaysia, SIA is usually the first carrier to offer VTL flights to Singapore before others carriers are not authorized to perform such flights.
In SIA’s first half financial results for 2021/21 (for the benchmark period April to September 2021) released on November 11, the company reported significantly lower losses. The net loss amounted to SGD 837 million (USD 615 million) against SGD 3,467 million per year, a reduction of four times. Passenger capacity quintupled year over year to reach 32% of pre-COVID levels in September.
SIA Group revenue increased 73% from SGD 1,634 million in the first half of 2020 to $ 2,827 million in the first half of 2021. This is attributable to improvements in the passenger and freight segments. Revenues from transported passengers increased by SGD 598 million, an increase of 385.8% thanks to the resumption of traffic. Significantly, SIA’s cash consumption rate decreased to SGD 18 million per month. It was SGD 350 million at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
Based on currently published timetables and aided by the rush to book VTL plane tickets, SIA predicts passenger capacity will reach 43% of pre-COVID levels by December 2021. Its network will serve just over the country. half of the total of pre-COVID cities, or 73 destinations including Singapore.
Other companies are also expected to benefit from the opening of VTL travel to countries like India, Indonesia and Malaysia, as nationals of these countries make up a significant portion of the workforce in Singapore.
The construction industry, for example, has experienced increased costs and project delays due to labor shortages.
The managing director of construction company Kori Holdings, which employs Indian workers, was quoted by the Straits Times as saying its workers had not seen their families in the past two years. He added: “Before the pandemic, they would have visited India at least once every two years for a month each time. When they go back (home) now, it’s like quitting because they can’t not come back. We lost some of our workers because they were too homesick. “
Hopefully, with the introduction of non-quarantine travel, these issues will eventually be resolved. (ANI)


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