SINGAPORE -- Singapore plans to allow travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the country without quarantining, as it aims to open up borders and resuscitate its core tourism and aviation sectors.
Starting Sept. 8, travelers coming from Germany and Brunei will be allowed to use special "vaccinated travel lanes" regardless of the purpose of their trips, the government announced on Thursday.
Singapore's move follows a global trend to ease border restrictions for vaccinated people, despite persistent concerns about virus variants and the risk of breakthrough infections. The city-state hopes to broaden the arrangement to include other countries and regions in the coming months. But officials insisted the reopening will be conducted in a "cautious and step-by-step manner" and did not disclose which other places are under consideration.
Separately, the Singapore government on Thursday announced it will also allow quarantine-free travel for people coming from Hong Kong and Macao starting Saturday -- regardless of vaccination status and contingent upon negative tests -- as infections appear stable in both territories. This is distinct from a planned travel bubble with Hong Kong that never got off the ground.
Transport Minister S Iswaran told reporters that Singapore and Hong Kong "will not be able to launch or sustain the air travel bubble in its present form" due to different border reopening approaches.
Travelers using the new vaccinated lanes must be fully inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or other vaccines on the World Health Organization's emergency use list, which also includes AstraZeneca and Sinovac.
They will not need to spend the one to two weeks in home or hotel quarantine -- the duration depends on origin of travel -- currently required for most arrivals.
On the other hand, travelers using the new lanes will be required to take a PCR test on arrival and isolate until the result comes in. Moreover, they will have to take additional tests on the third and seventh days of their visit. Travelers will also have to take designated flights operated by Lufthansa, Royal Brunei Airlines or Singapore Airlines.
Brunei and Germany were chosen for their relatively stable COVID-19 situations and vaccination progress. Germany has administered full two-shot regimens to 57% of its population, and reported a seven-day average of about 5,300 new daily cases, according to the website Our World in Data. Brunei's full vaccination rate is low, at 12%, but it is averaging about 60 cases over the last seven days.
Singapore remains on guard for new outbreaks but is eager to accelerate its economic recovery, after gross domestic product shrank 5.4% last year. With its own full vaccination rate exceeding 70% of the population, the country has been progressively easing domestic restrictions as well as border controls.
Last week, it resumed granting entry permits for work pass and dependent pass holders from anywhere, as long as they are fully vaccinated. Previously, the permits were given only for several lower-risk countries and territories.
Further relaxation of border controls would help build momentum. Singapore last week upgraded its economic growth projection for this year to a range of 6% to 7%, from the previous 4% to 6%.