Coronavirus: Thailand among 6 countries added to Singapore’s quarantine-free travel lane

27-Nov-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Singapore on Friday extended its quarantine-free travel lane scheme for visitors vaccinated against Covid-19 to six more countries in a bid to regain its international aviation hub status.

The inclusion of Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey to the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) programme brought the number of nations the city state has such arrangements with to 27.

The move came even as Singapore tightened border restrictions with seven African countries after the “potentially more contagious” B.1.1.529 Covid-19 variant was detected in South Africa.

The island nation currently has no cases linked to the strain.

Singapore’s civil aviation authority said the 27 countries under the VTL scheme contributed to about 60 per cent of its total arrivals before the pandemic.

It added that Cambodia, Thailand, Maldives and Sri Lanka were popular tourist destinations among Singaporeans.

Travellers from Thailand would be able to enter Singapore under the arrangement from December 14. Those from Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey can visit two days later.

With these new lanes, the daily quota under the VTL would be increased from 10,000 to 15,000.

Transport minister S. Iswaran told reporters that Singapore has to be “very mindful” of the evolving virus situation and that it was closely monitoring the emergence of new variants of concerns even as it looks to reopen its borders.

“We must expect that in a dynamic situation like this, and with the pandemic evolving, that settings may change.”

Singapore is seeing about 2,000 Covid-19 infections a day but authorities have pledged to treat the virus as endemic and would progressively open up given its high vaccination rates.

Australia probes new variant found in South Africa

Australia on Friday said it was investigating the newly identified Covid-19 variant spreading in South Africa and warned it may close its borders to travellers from the African nation if risks from the new strain rise.

South African scientists are concerned the new variant could evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible as it has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations.

Australia Health minister Greg Hunt said he would swiftly respond if the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as a major new variant.

“As we have always been, we are flexible. And if the medical advice is that we need to change that, we won’t hesitate,” Hunt told reporters in Sydney.

“That is what we have done as a country, whether it has been closing borders, whether it has been ensuring there is quarantine.”

Alarmed by the variant, Britain temporarily banned flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and eSwatini from Friday, and asked returning British travellers from those destinations to quarantine.

UK health officials said the new strain could make vaccines less effective as it has a spike protein that was different from the one in the original coronavirus that vaccines are based on.

The WHO said it would take “a few weeks” to understand the impact of the new variant.

Australia had largely stamped out infections for most of this year until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in late June spread rapidly across its east. It has recorded about 205,000 cases and 1,985 deaths so far.

In neighbouring New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the country is well prepared for the discovery of new coronavirus variants that may be resistant to vaccines.

“All of our planning around Covid, we have built into it the possibility of variants in the future,” Ardern said.

“That is why we are maintaining levels of public health protections. It’s why we’ve maintained requirements at our border.”

Ardern’s government announced earlier this week it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated international travellers from April 30.

When asked if the new variant would likely delay that timetable, Ardern said the country will had “a number of inbuilt measures to act as a layer of protection.”

“With all our changes, we constantly monitor what is happening with the pandemic as we go and we’ll continue to do that,” she added.

Meanwhile, India is stepping up screening of all visitors travelling from or through South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong amid concerns over the new variant.

The health ministry has written to all state governments asking for rigorous screening at airports, as well as continued contact tracing.

Japan also decided on Friday to tighten border controls for visitors from South Africa and five other African countries.

Philippines to welcome some foreign tourists from December

The Philippines will reopen its borders to some foreign tourists from December 1, government officials said on Friday.

Vaccinated foreigners from countries designated low risk by the Philippines for Covid-19 will be allowed entry over an initial 15-day period, Karlo Nograles, acting presidential spokesperson, told a regular news conference.

“This is something we are doing step by step,” Nograles said, adding that the two-week window could be extended.

The Philippines shut its doors to foreign tourists at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

Its tourism arrivals from top markets Japan, South Korea and China slumped 83 per cent to 1.4 million last year.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have reopened borders to foreign tourists.

Vietnam to get licenses to make virus pills

Drug makers Pfiser and MSD, which is known as Merck & Co Inc in the United States and Canada, have agreed to give licenses to firms in Vietnam to produce Covid-19 treatment pills, Vietnam’s ministry of health said on Friday.

https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/australasia/article/3157442/australia-investigates-new-covid-19-variant-found-south?module=perpetual_scroll&pgtype=article&campaign=3157442

 

Category: Singapore, Thailand

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