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High number of UK travellers on VTL reflects 'strong people-to-people connections': British High Commission

High number of UK travellers on VTL reflects 'strong people-to-people connections': British High Commission

Travellers at Changi Airport in Singapore. (File photo: iStock/Stephane Jaquemet)

SINGAPORE: The high number of travellers from UK to Singapore on the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme reflects the "strong people-to-people connections" between the two countries, said British High Commissioner to Singapore Kara Owen.

“The VTL is an important corridor for residents of both UK and Singapore to conduct business, for education, for leisure, and to be reunited with family and friends, and more,” she said.

“COVID-19 has made global travel extremely challenging for all. I thank the British community for their resilience and patience. I also thank the Singapore Government for establishing the VTL. We value the strong partnership between our two countries.”

About 40 per cent of the more than 2,400 people issued vaccinated travel passes to enter Singapore as of Wednesday (Oct 13) are travellers from the UK.

Of the 976 travelling from the UK to Singapore between Oct 19 and Nov 17, 430 are short-term visitors and 546 are long-term pass holders.

From Oct 19, these vaccinated travellers, and those from Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and the US can come to Singapore without quarantine.

Applications for travel from these eight countries opened on Tuesday and a total of 2,409 vaccinated travel passes were issued by the end of the day for travel to Singapore between Oct 19 and Nov 17.

  Short-Term Visitors Long-Term Pass Holders Total
Canada 8 21 29
Denmark 30 50 80
France 58 479 537
Italy 31 105 136
The Netherlands 22 133 155
Spain 9 47 56
UK 430 546 976
USA 136 304 440
Total 724 1,685 2,409

VTLs with Germany and Brunei were established last month while another VTL with South Korea is due to start in November. 

The vaccinated travel lane with the United Kingdom will let families which have been split by COVID-19 restrictions reunite without fear of being stranded in either country, said the British Association.

Honorary secretary of the British Association Edith Blyth told CNA that many Britons in Singapore went home in 2020 and could not get back into Singapore when the COVID-19 situation worsened. 

British working in Singapore have been prepared to give up their jobs here in order to reunite with families, particularly elderly parents and their young adult children who are starting university or their careers, she said.

“It became harder to obtain permission to enter Singapore and consequently some families have been split for one or two years,” said Ms Blythe.

“We are grateful to the Singapore authorities for setting up these lanes so families can be reunited both here and in the UK without fear of being stranded in either country. That is not to say that a new situation may develop, but as we approach the Christmas season, it is important to meet in person rather than Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp.”

The British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore said it expects the demand for VTL flights between Singapore and the United Kingdom to outweigh supply. 

“In time, the impact upon Singapore’s infrastructure of the additional VTLs will be measured and shared. Only at this time do we expect it to be reasonable to consider an increase in the capacity of VTL flights as the multi-ministry task force manages the VTLs and impact on the local healthcare system, which is important,” said Mr David Kelly, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce Singapore.

“In the meantime, we anticipate demand of VTL flights to outweigh supply and welcome the additional step taken to move the UK into Category II for those who will not be using the VTL.”

He added that the UK and Singapore share deep historical ties and excellent economic relations, with a free trade agreement signed between the two countries in December 2020. 

“Within business and trade it is vital for a travel corridor to remain open and for businesses to be able to meet with clients during such visits. The announcement of the VTL with the UK at the weekend has been a welcomed message of confidence for those looking to expand into Singapore and the wider region,” he said.

He also said that the entry pass approval process has been “robust” but many organisations found it hard to manage. 

“With caps in place to limit the number of approvals given per day and the process managed by organisations rather than the individual, travel has been a challenge for many. With employees now able to book flights on the VTL directly there is less of a burden placed on businesses to secure entry passes for their employees’ travel needs across the organisation.”

Source: CNA/hm