Singapore and Thailand join Australia in easing travel rules

Thailand and Singapore require arrivals to isolate until they get the results of an-on arrival PCR test. Thailand requires another PCR test on day five. Singapore has dropped its requirement for supervised arrival tests on day three and day seven to free up capacity in its system as community transmission of omicron increases. Travellers are now required to test at home before heading out.

Singapore’s cap on arrivals is estimated by industry sources to have kept VTL arrivals at about 5000 a week over the past month. Singapore operates these travel lanes with 24 countries including Australia.

Travel demand ‘holding up’

Airlines report interest in flights both ways, though would-be travellers from Western Australia are rethinking their plans after last week’s backflip from Premier Mark McGowan means there is no end in sight to hotel quarantine in that state.

Singapore Airlines has reduced the number of flights it will operate out of Perth from February 5. The airline says demand from other states for international travel is holding up.

“We’ve continued to see strong interest and bookings for travel from Australia to Singapore and beyond and expect that this will continue, particularly as international borders continue to open,” a Singapore Airlines spokeswoman said.

Thailand has also relaxed domestic restrictions and is encouraging workers to return to their workplace by the end of the month, with the government judging that the immediate danger from omicron has passed, at least for now.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul last week said that “even though omicron is highly transmissible it is still less severe than the delta variant”. The daily count of new cases has ranged between 7000 and 8000 in recent weeks, though it edged up to 8600 on Friday.

The Singapore government has warned its citizens to prepare for a surge in cases in coming weeks. However, it has not clamped down on social gatherings ahead of Chinese New Year, instead focusing on protecting the vulnerable in hospitals and aged-care homes by banning visitors.

In a nod to the shorter infectious period of omicron, the isolation period has been cut from 10 days to one week.

The region is adjusting to the new variant, economists say.

“Our view is omicron will pause but not derail the reopening process,” Citi’s chief Singapore and Malaysia economist, Kit Wei Zheng, told a webinar last week. “So far omicron is manageable.”