Singapore reports 3,703 new COVID-19 cases, people line up to book travel tickets

Singapore reports 3,703 new COVID-19 cases, people line up to book travel tickets

Singapore: Singapore has reported 3,703 new COVID-19 cases, including 832 in migrant worker dormitories and three from people who arrived here from abroad, the health ministry said on Sunday.

With the latest cases, Singapore's national tally of coronavirus has reached 124,157, it said.

In total, 153 people have died from complications after contracting the coronavirus, including 52 this month, the ministry said.

The 11 Singaporeans, who died due to COVID-19 linked complications on Saturday, were aged between 56 and 90, it said, adding that six of them were women and five men.

The next few months will be trying as daily cases continue to rise for a few more weeks, but the surge will level off hopefully within a month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised address to the nation on Saturday.

He stressed that everyone has a part to play in ensuring that the healthcare system does not get overwhelmed. This includes cutting back on social activities, and not rushing to hospitals' accident and emergency (A&E) departments if they have mild symptoms, so that bed capacity is reserved for those who need it most.

"Unity of purpose and hearts is crucial to get us through the next few months," the Prime Minister stressed.

Lee said Singapore will press on with its strategy of living with the virus, with a "new normal" expected to be between three and six months away.

Right now, the crucial step is to update mindsets on the virus, said Lee, adding that this means treating COVID-19 as a serious adversary without living in fear of it, and adjusting healthcare and recovery measures to prioritise those at greatest risk of severe illness.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that authorities had reset these COVID-19 protocols as the Delta variant causes high viral loads early in an infection that can be caught by a rapid test, and balanced against the unsustainability of restricting large numbers of people for prolonged periods to try and catch every case.

A system like that is less watertight than today's quarantine system, but it can significantly and substantively manage the risk, he said at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Saturday after Lee's address to the nation.

As part of reopening economic activities, the government announced on Saturday that Singapore will allow quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane (VTL).

From October 19, fully vaccinated travellers from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK and the US will be able to enter Singapore under this arrangement, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said.

This expansion is being conducted in a "cautious and step-by-step manner" to help "reclaim and rebuild" Singapore's status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity, Channel News Asia reported, citing CAAS.

The latest announcement comes after the "experience and confidence gained" from the first two VTL with Brunei and Germany, which were launched last month, it said.

On Friday, Singapore announced another VTL with South Korea, which starts from November 15.

Minister for Transport S Iswaran said, While still a far cry from where we were pre-Covid, this is a significant step in the reopening of our borders and crucial to reclaiming and rebuilding our status as an international aviation hub with global connectivity."

Singapore's expansion of the VTL arrangements to 11 countries is great news for our customers, who can now reunite with their loved ones more easily or finally go on that overseas holiday, said SIA commercial executive vice-president Lee Lik Hsin.

The SIA Group supports all measures to reopen Singapore to quarantine-free international travel. This will enable the safe and gradual recovery of Changi Airport as a major air hub, backed by rising vaccination rates and confidence in the robust health and safety measures across the end-to-end customer journey, the Channel News Asia quoted Lee Lik Hsin as saying.

SIA, which along with its no-frills subsidiary Scoot are adding more flights, noted that multi-city itineraries within these VTL countries are allowed if customers meet the 14-day travel history requirement, which includes transit countries.

For example, a traveller could fly from Singapore to Paris, then Paris to Amsterdam, and still be eligible for the vaccinated travel lane flight from Amsterdam to Singapore, media reports elaborated on the VTL setup.

However, a passenger travelling from Singapore to Los Angeles via Tokyo would not be eligible if the stay in Los Angeles is less than two weeks, as Tokyo is not included under the arrangement.

Singapore's Changi Airport also welcomed the new vaccinated travel lanes as "yet another positive step" towards the recovery of travel and connectivity for the country's air hub, noting that the 11 countries under the arrangement accounted for more than 6.7 million of the airport's passenger traffic in 2019.

They include Changi's key long-haul markets during the pre-pandemic period.

"The VTLs will make it easier for people to travel for business, leisure and to visit loved ones," said Changi Airport Group air hub development managing director Lim Ching Kiat.

"We look forward to serving more passengers travelling to and from these VTL countries and remain committed to providing a safe and smooth travel experience for them at Changi Airport."

Following the VTL announcement on Saturday, people lined up for three hours outside Singapore Airlines (SIA) office to book flight tickets.

Indian-origin 50-year-old Kumar, who declined to give his full name, was at the SIA office to book tickets. He was trying to buy a ticket for his 19-year-old son, a first-year mathematics and computer science student at the University of Chicago, to fly home.

"Now that there is no more quarantine, he can come back during his winter break. His friends and family are all waiting for him here and he misses our labradoodle," The Straits Times quoted Kumar as saying.

Pent-up demand for travel has shot through the roof, with families prepared to pay as much as 5,000 Singapore dollars (USD 3,688) for a business-class ticket to London, according to the report.

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