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Insights from Singapore Opening Its Borders to New Zealand Travellers

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Singapore skyline at night

The announcement that New Zealanders can enter Singapore again may provide insights into how New Zealand manages “bubble” travel in the future.

During the peak of the initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore closed its borders to international travellers. As one of the main regional travel and commercial hubs, this severely limited UK / Europe repatriation options, trade, and the ability of New Zealanders to visit family in the expat community.  As the New Zealand government has discussed Singapore’s inclusion in a travel “bubble” the announcement that Singapore is opening its borders to New Zealanders should attract attention:

From 1 September 2020, [New Zealanders] who are short-term visitors may apply for an Air Travel Pass for entry into Singapore on or after 8 September 2020. They can apply for an Air Travel Pass at no charge. Applications must be made between seven and thirty calendar days prior to the visitor’s intended date of entry into Singapore. The Air Travel Pass is valid for single entry into Singapore anytime from the visitor’s intended date of entry and up to seven calendar days after.

Entering Singapore still comes with restrictions.

What Are Singapore’s Entry Restrictions for New Zealanders

Report and cell composition concept with modern medical technology

Singapore has adopted a measured approach to opening its borders to New Zealanders (and selected other countries). Far from throwing the door open, New Zealand travellers must comply with set requirements, but they are significantly different from our current compulsory 14 day managed isolation and multiple Covid-19 tests regime.

Full details of the requirements can be found on the Singapore Safe Travel website and should be referred to directly before considering travel to Singapore. The details in this article are for discussion purposes only and should not be read as a substitute for the official announcement (as they may also change).

The key requirements include:

1. Post arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (booking and pre-paying for the test is encouraged). At the time of writing the PCR test costs S$300 (approx NZ$330).

  1. 2. Book accommodation in Singapore to serve out an isolation period for 1-2 days while waiting for the PCR test result (the accommodation must be non-residential and must be an individual room with an attached toilet).
  2. 3. Have downloaded the TraceTogether app on to a mobile device.
  3. 4. Submit health, travel history, and accommodation declarations electronically via the SG Arrival Card, no earlier than three days prior to arrival in Singapore

Time will tell whether this process is effective, but as an island nation that also relies on international trade and tourism it is notable that Singapore’s health officials and politicians are comfortable with:

  • A single test on arrival (compared to multiple tests during New Zealand’s 14 day quarantine period).
  • A maximum of 2 days of self managed quarantine until the test result is received (compared with 14 days enforced quarantine in New Zealand).

Does this mean a Singapore Holiday is On the Cards?

As New Zealand’s managed isolation requirements currently still apply, the 14 day paid quarantine on returning from Singapore is likely to continue to present too great a hurdle to holiday travel.  For urgent business or family travel, Singapore’s approach makes travel in the current environment slightly more palatable.