Singapore has eased most COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions while Thailand could do the same by June, according to government authorities. The news comes after most countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Vietnam, reopened borders to tourists earlier in 2022.
In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the current Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme will be replaced by the Vaccinated Travel Framework starting April 1. The latter allows all vaccinated travelers and children 12 and younger to enter the country with just a pre-departure Covid-19 test.
The VTL scheme called for arrivals to fly on specific flights, take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and have insurance. Singapore’s reopening is seen as an important step to move beyond the pandemic.
“It will give a much-needed boost to businesses, particularly the tourism sector, and help Singapore reclaim its position as a business and aviation hub,” The Prime Minister said in a public address. “Now, the Omicron situation is well under control. Nearly all our cases are domestic, originating within the community. Arrivals from abroad constitute only a very small proportion of cases. We can therefore safely open up our borders.”
Thailand hopes to follow suit
While Thailand was one of the first countries in the world to reopen its borders to tourists, it has yet to replace the various schemes regulating the process. Instead, the government has slowly eliminated layers from its Thailand Pass program.
For example, the pre-travel RT-PCR test requirement will be removed on April 1 with on arrival RT-PCR tests to be replaced by antigen ones starting in May. These are a step in the right direction, but some believe the country needs to act faster in removing restrictions.
“We [Thailand] are like a hare running faster than others. What should we do to prevent humiliation when ending up being overtaken by a tortoise? The goal for Thai tourism is to become a global leader,” Minister of Tourism and Sports, Khun Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, told local media.