SINGAPORE – Starting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday (November 11), most travelers can have a rapid antigen test (ART) performed by an internationally trained professional before flying to Singapore.
This applies to those returning via the vaccinated travel route (VTL) and from Category II and III countries, which include Australia, Great Britain and the United States.
Previously, all travelers except those aged two and under had to pass a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to come back and test negative within 48 hours of departure.
Travelers now have a longer period to take the tests, as a pre-departure test taken anytime on November 12, for example, can be valid until 11:59 p.m. on November 14.
Here’s what you need to know about the new measures and how to book ART abroad.
Q: What is a pre-departure Covid-19 test? Do I have to take a test before leaving Singapore and on arrival?
A: The pre-departure Covid-19 test refers to the test that travelers take so that they can present the results to airline staff at overseas airports before returning to Singapore.
As for the test that residents of Singapore must undergo for most destinations before leaving the Republic, it is recommended that they first consult the websites of the immigration authorities or embassies of the country of destination.
Travelers can also check out Sherpa – a travel data aggregator that provides information on destination country restrictions and visa application and additional document requirements. More information can be found on the Sherpa website.
As part of the VTL, not all countries require travelers from Singapore to pass a PCR test before they can enter.
For example, France and Britain do not require it for vaccinated travelers, but others, such as the Netherlands, which on Thursday reclassified Singapore from a low-risk country to a very high-risk country. , will require testing.
When Singapore residents return to the Republic, they must still undergo either a PCR on arrival at Changi Airport or an exit PCR test after serving their notice of stay, depending on the country they are returning from.
Q: Why is the government allowing us to take ART now before returning from these countries?
A: The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Monday, November 8 that changes to border measures are aligned with Covid-19 testing protocols in place in Singapore.
Professor Dale Fisher, senior consultant in the Division of Infectious Diseases at National University Hospital, said that as global travel picks up, requiring all who return to take a PCR test will be increasingly difficult in terms of logistical arrangements.
Professor Fisher, who is also chairman of the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, said: “In 2019, Changi Airport hosted 68.3 million people. passengers, or (on average) 187,000 per day. Other airports, which have a similar volume, may not have the infrastructure to support as many PCR tests.
“Imposing such a test will mean taking time for general practitioners or trained professionals and putting more demand on Covid-19 laboratories than they can handle. “
Q: What form should my pre-departure ART result take?
A: According to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the test must be taken within two days before departure at an accredited or internationally recognized laboratory, clinic or medical facility.
The result certificate must be in English and contain the date and time of the Covid-19 test. It must also bear the name of the testing establishment performing the Covid-19 test.
Self-administered ART are not allowed.
In some countries, healthcare providers will email ART results, while others will like Denmark, have a centralized website where test results can be downloaded or printed.
The Straits Times understands that airports generally accept print and digital results.
In response to requests from ST, Singapore Airlines (SIA) said its website and mobile app had been improved to verify digital health credentials and perform entry rule checks.
SIA said: “Customers can generate their own boarding passes through these channels if no other travel document is required, thus eliminating the need for physical verification at airports.”
Q: Where can I take a TAR before departure?
A: Ministry of Health has a list of clinics for travel from countries such as Malaysia and South Korea. The two have VTL deals with Singapore that will begin later this month.
For travelers who prefer to visit a familiar clinic, Fullerton Health said corporate clients registered under its Fullerton One program can visit any of its clinics in five Asian markets, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong, during their travels abroad.
A Raffles Medical Group spokesperson told ST that clients can visit its clinics for certified testing in Vietnam, where ART is permitted before departure.
With a larger test window, there is also no need to take the ART at the airport, although you can do so at some locations such as Heathrow Airport in Britain and the Los Angeles International Airport in the United States.
It is possible to take a test at some attractions such as Disneyland Paris and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.
Q: Do I need to hire a travel booking company to set up a test?
A: With the ever-changing Covid-19 situation, travel agencies may be able to advise clients on the different requirements of different countries.
For example, although Singapore accepts ART before departure, countries like South Korea and Australia still require PCR testing.
Booking platform Klook said its listings include information about the service provider’s hours of operation and the expected time for ART or PCR results.
Mr Aaron Wong, 33, who runs travel website The MileLion, said wait times for such tests can vary widely.
On a visit to Munich, Germany, via the VTL twice, he waited five minutes online the first time, but had to wait 90 minutes on his second trip.
Mr. Steven Ler, Executive Director of UOB Travel Planners, said: “Purchasing a pre-departure test as part of a package makes it easier for employees to go on a work trip.
“This saves them the trouble of submitting receipts to their business for reimbursement. And it will also greatly benefit leisure travelers who prefer a coordinated arrangement.”