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Singaporean expats, businesses welcome long-awaited VTLs with Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia – The Straits Times

DUBAI – The launch of Singapore’s vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) has come as a huge relief to Singaporean expatriates who now hope to fly home quarantine-free after two years.
The VTLs, which started on Friday (Feb 25) after a delay of almost three months, have also been welcomed by the local business communities in the three countries, who foresee better and hassle-free business conduct with their Singaporean counterparts.
Singapore’s consul-general in Dubai, Mr Low Pit Chen, said many had been anxiously waiting for travel restrictions to ease.
“I have often been asked by businessmen in Dubai when they can travel to Singapore quarantine-free. I am aware that many Singapore businessmen had deferred travel to the UAE due to the SHN (stay-home notice) requirements in Singapore. We can expect to see business travel pick up for Expo 2020 Dubai and… the many trade exhibitions here,” Mr Low told The Straits Times.
The world fair, which started on Oct 1, 2021, will be held till March 31 this year.
The three VTLs were originally slated to start on Dec 6, but the launch was deferred amid the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Singaporean lawyer Gabriel Yuen, who lives in Dubai, has delayed visiting his parents back home for over a year.
“I had seen them in 2021. I am very happy about this measure and now my parents are soon joining me in Dubai.”
Mr Yuen, 32, said he and his associate would soon be resuming business trips to the city state.
VTL travellers must meet some key criteria, including being fully vaccinated with a World Health Organisation-approved Covid-19 vaccine at least two weeks before travel to Singapore, and having vaccination certificates in recognised formats.
They must also apply for a vaccinated travel pass (VTP) before their anticipated travel date. The VTP is valid for six calendar days from the date of entrance selected by the travellers.
Mr Adrian Tan, general manager of CBM Qatar, said he and his family in Doha had to miss a trip to Singapore recently.
“The three of us fell right into three different categories. I was vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19, my wife was vaccinated and did not recover from Covid-19, while my son was not vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19. It was just too confusing and risky as any changes to any of the rules will affect our travel and return plan.”
Mr Tan, 44, said the VTL “has a major positive impact on Singaporeans who live overseas for a long time and who haven’t been able to visit home as much as we would like to”.
With no quarantine in Singapore, “we will not need to be absent from office for an overly long period and it minimises disruptions to the business”.
Locals in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE are also ready to holiday in Singapore.
“Singapore is Asia’s undisputed capital of cool, street food, luxury lifestyle, and sci-fi-like architecture… My top location to visit has always been Sentosa island. It never fails to entertain me and my family,” said Mr Ahmed Khalifa, vice-president of Expo 2020, who last visited Singapore three years ago.
While passenger air travel gradually picks up globally post-pandemic, airlines are pinning hopes on measures such as VTL for their business revival.
“The VTL is an important step as we rebuild from the impact of Covid-19 on our business and supports the ongoing recovery of the airline industry,” Singapore Airlines (SIA) said in a statement to ST.
“The SIA Group has seen strong demand for its VTL services since the launch of these arrangements last year. We will continue to grow our network and add new services in a calibrated manner, providing greater travel options and flexibility for our customers.”
Emirates Airlines, the world’s largest international airline, will operate four flights a week under the VTL scheme.
Now that the VTL has started, Mr Feroz Siddiqui, a 52-year-old Singaporean based in Qatar, has one more wish.
“In Dubai and Doha, we followed rather strict Covid-19 protocols at the height of the pandemic, but the governments were quick to ease the rules after the countries reached substantial vaccination figures.
“We hope Singapore would also ease the rules soon as the government agrees that Singapore has entered the endemic zone now. Hopefully, Singapore will remove the five-people rule for vaccinated people mingling socially.”
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MCI (P) 031/10/2021, MCI (P) 032/10/2021. Published by SPH Media Limited, Co. Regn. No. 202120748H. Copyright © 2021 SPH Media Limited. All rights reserved.

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