Singapore has reverted to Phase 2 conditions to tackle an increase in COVID-19 community cases. Here’s what it means for leisure and travel plans.
A sense of deja vu reverberated around Singapore on 8 May, as the country returned to Phase 2 conditions to curb a resurgence in COVID-19 community cases.
As you’re no doubt already aware, this means smaller social gatherings, more people working from home, and mandatory TraceTogether check-ins from 17 May 2021. These enhanced measures are tentatively set to run till 30 May 2021, with the hope that the situation will stabilise by then.
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All travellers arriving in Singapore from 8 May 2021 will be required to serve a 21-day SHN, up from the standard 14 days (a 21-day SHN was already in force prior to 8 May for arrivals from the UK, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).
Exceptions apply to travellers arriving from the following countries and territories:
No SHN required
7 day SHN at place of residence
Hong Kong SAR
While some countries have opened or plan to open their borders to vaccinated tourists (the EU, for example, hopes to do so in the summer), these openings remain unilateral at the moment. In other words, a fully-vaccinated traveller from Singapore may be able to enter those countries without quarantine, but will need to serve an SHN upon return regardless.
It’s possible this will eventually change. As outgoing transport minister Ong Ye Kung said in late April, Singapore is considering waiving the SHN requirement for vaccinated residents travelling to low-risk countries. However, it’s best to temper expectations at this point, given the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 variants and the ability of vaccines to protect against them.
In the meantime, a 21-day SHN will set you back S$3,000 (before factoring in the cost of testing), so it’s highly inadvisable to leave Singapore at the moment unless it’s absolutely necessary, or unless you’re travelling on the Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble (ATB).
The Singapore-Hong Kong ATB is scheduled to launch on 26 May 2021, and there are no changes for now. The ATB suspension depends on the 7-day average of unlinked community cases. At the time of publishing, most of the community cases in Singapore are still linked, and this figure is still well below the suspension threshold of five.
The authorities are clearly prepared to delay the commencement of the ATB should the situation call for it, but until then, no news is good news. In any case, both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are permitting passengers to make unlimited changes to any ticket before 30 June 2021, regardless of the fare class. Should the ATB be postponed, it’s highly likely they’ll also offer refunds, just as they did last year.
Hotels are still allowed to accept staycation guests during the 8 to 30 May 2021 period, subject to the prevailing safe management measures.
However, the increase in SHN duration for the vast majority of inbound travelers has led to a 50% hike in hotel demand overnight. As such, certain “mixed-use” hotels (which accept both SHN and staycation guests) have had to allocate more rooms for SHN, and other hotels (such as the Park Hotels Group and Dorsett Singapore) have reverted to taking SHN guests only. Affected guests due to stay in May have already received cancellation notices, but if your staycation falls in June or July, there’s a possibility that you might be impacted too.
Even if your hotel does not accept SHN guests at all, you should still expect some changes during this period. Gyms will be temporarily closed, and while swimming pools can continue operations, hotels may reduce hourly capacity in order to keep groups at a maximum of five. Be sure to book your slots in advance to avoid disappointment.
Spas and kids clubs/play areas will be permitted to continue operations, although the MOH has indicated this may change if community cases continue to rise.
For those looking forward to buffets, the good news is these will proceed as normal. All food will continue to be portioned out by staff members, food displays will be protected by clear barriers, and diners must wear masks when queueing.
All scheduled cruises on Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises are proceeding as planned. As before, all safe management measures that apply on land also apply at sea – so the maximum dining party size is capped at five, the onboard gym will be closed, and performances have to be capped at 100 people.
Royal Caribbean passengers in particular have been told that they will only be permitted to book one show for the entire cruise duration (two if they’re in a suite), presumably because of the need to accommodate up to 2,500 passengers with vastly reduced capacity. This might be a case of under-promising and over-delivering though, as I’ve heard anecdotal accounts of some guests succeeding in making multiple reservations onboard.
There was initially some confusion regarding who would be eligible to sail, as both cruise liners sent out advisories stating that any passenger whose TraceTogether app indicated possible exposure would be prohibited from sailing. However, both have revised their stance after the MOH stated that businesses should not use people’s exposure alert information to grant or deny access to premises.
The updated advisories “strongly encourage” guests with possible exposure alerts to postpone their sailing dates, but stops short of an outright ban.
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Here’s how the tightened measures will affect the operation of attractions and tours:
Attractions will have their operating capacity cut from 65% to 50%
The maximum tour size offered by tour operators will be reduced from 50 to 20 attendees
All indoor and outdoor shows must reduce their capacity from 250/500 pax to 100 pax.
Attraction operators like Resorts World Sentosa and the Wildlife Reserve Singapore (which manages the Singapore Zoo, River Safari, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park) have said that guests who have pre-booked tickets to attractions will still be permitted entry.
In case you were worried that the return to Phase 2 would prevent you from spending your SingapoRediscovers Vouchers, their expiry dates have already been extended a further six months from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021.
After the relative freedom enjoyed during Phase 3, the return to Phase 2 conditions is no doubt frustrating. On the bright side, it’s scheduled to last just over three weeks, and if everyone plays their part by wearing masks, practicing good personal hygiene and getting vaccinated if eligible, things can get back to normal (or the new normal at least) soon enough.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.
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