SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The first flight ferrying passengers from Germany travelling under a quarantine-free scheme has landed at Changi Airport.

SQ325, operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), touched down at 5.36pm on Wednesday (Sept 8). It departed from Frankfurt at about 10pm local time on Tuesday, or 4am on Wednesday, Singapore time.

The plane was expected to land at Terminal 3 at 4.25pm on Wednesday, but arrived later due to a reroute to avoid Afghan airspace.

SQ325’s landing marks the start of Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which is open to Brunei and Germany.

Vaccinated travellers under the scheme will take up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests in lieu of quarantine, and have to follow other conditions like taking designated VTL flights to Singapore.

Germany-based aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth, 55, who was on the flight, told The Straits Times he was happy to travel again on an SIA plane, and praised the airline for its service on board.

He was travelling to Singapore as part of a media trip organised by SIA and the Singapore Tourism Board. He had first visited the Republic in 1986.

“It’s very heartening to get a feeling of more normality coming back to travel life being able to go to Singapore again,” he added.

“But I am slightly anxious (over) how easygoing formalities on arrival will be in Changi.”

While Brunei remains closed to leisure travel, Germany has been open to travellers from the Republic since October last year. This means Singapore residents can use the VTL scheme to travel without quarantine in either country.

The VTL’s successful start has brought relief to travel agents and would-be travellers, who had feared the scheme might be derailed, as with the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble.

The bubble for quarantine-free travel was supposed to launch last November, but was delayed several times on the back of unstable Covid-19 situations in both cities. It was cancelled last month without a single flight taking off.

Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said the first VTL flight has been a breakthrough from the unsuccessful air travel bubble with Hong Kong.

He added that the reopening to Germany is a good start for international leisure travel, with travel agents already receiving inquiries for trips to Germany for year-end holidays.

“We hope to see things pick up a lot more, and that will give a lot more confidence to those who are still adopting a wait-and-see approach.”

SINGAPORE – The first flight ferrying passengers from Germany travelling under a quarantine-free scheme has landed at Changi Airport.

SQ325, operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), touched down at 5.36pm on Wednesday (Sept 8). It departed from Frankfurt at about 10pm local time on Tuesday, or 4am on Wednesday, Singapore time.

The plane was expected to land at Terminal 3 at 4.25pm on Wednesday, but arrived later due to a reroute to avoid Afghan airspace.

SQ325’s landing marks the start of Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which is open to Brunei and Germany.

Vaccinated travellers under the scheme will take up to four Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction tests in lieu of quarantine, and have to follow other conditions like taking designated VTL flights to Singapore.

Germany-based aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth, 55, who was on the flight, told The Straits Times he was happy to travel again on an SIA plane, and praised the airline for its service on board.

He was travelling to Singapore as part of a media trip organised by SIA and the Singapore Tourism Board. He had first visited the Republic in 1986.

“It’s very heartening to get a feeling of more normality coming back to travel life being able to go to Singapore again,” he added. “But I am slightly anxious (over) how easygoing formalities on arrival will be in Changi.”

While Brunei remains closed to leisure travel, Germany has been open to travellers from the Republic since October last year. This means Singapore residents can use the VTL scheme to travel without quarantine in either country.

The VTL’s successful start has brought relief to travel agents and would-be travellers, who had feared the scheme might be derailed, as with the Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble.

The bubble for quarantine-free travel was supposed to launch last November, but was delayed several times on the back of unstable Covid-19 situations in both cities. It was cancelled last month without a single flight taking off.


Aviation journalist Andreas Spaeth was one of the passengers on board the first VTL flight from Germany. PHOTO: ANDREAS SPAETH

Mr Steven Ler, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said the first VTL flight has been a breakthrough from the unsuccessful air travel bubble with Hong Kong.

He added that the reopening to Germany is a good start for international leisure travel, with travel agents already receiving inquiries for trips to Germany for year-end holidays.

“We hope to see things pick up a lot more, and that will give a lot more confidence to those who are still adopting a wait-and-see approach.”

Singapore will allow quarantine-free entry to travelers from Germany and Brunei who are vaccinated against COVID-19 starting from today. Visitors

Photo: Lauryn Ishak/Bloomberg

Singapore will allow quarantine-free entry to travelers from Germany and Brunei who are vaccinated against COVID-19 starting from today.

Visitors from these countries can begin bypassing the isolation requirement if they test negative in four COVID-19 tests, making it the first travel bubble of its kind between Asia and Europe since the pandemic began. Border restrictions will also be progressively eased for all travel from Hong Kong and Macau starting September 11.

Singapore has vaccinated 71.3% of its population, giving them a strong foundation to introduce vaccination-differentiated border measures for travelers from regions that have controlled the pandemic well. As business and leisure travel is essential to Singapore’s trade-dependent economy, Singapore is looking to kick-start their economy by treating COVID-19 like the influenza.

Expect Singapore to use this bubble as a trial of sorts, as the country begins reopening borders to the rest of the world. If successful, its international travel framework will likely pave the way for how other countries, such as Australia, tackles its own international border reopening.  Despite its promise, expect the process to move slowly, as the highly limited nature of the reopening protects Singapore from a potential surge of cases.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand ordered a pause on quarantine-free travel from Australia for at least eight weeks, citing coronavirus surges caused by the Delta variant that have left more than half of Australia under lockdown.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is, we believe, the right one,” Ms. Ardern told reporters at a news conference. “This will mean many people will find themselves for a time once more separated from friends and families in Australia, and I know this announcement will be a disappointment to them.”

The travel bubble was a rarity in Asia, where many countries have closed their borders during the pandemic, and had been largely successful as the two countries enforced strict controls to keep the virus at bay.

The emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, however, has challenged the “Covid zero” strategy in both countries. And sluggish vaccination programs, which have stalled reopenings in much of the Asia Pacific region, have provoked deep frustration among residents of Australia and New Zealand who have been in and out of lockdowns since the pandemic began.

The Australian state of New South Wales on Friday reported 136 new cases, its highest daily total since the pandemic began, in an outbreak that on Friday was declared a national emergency. Separate outbreaks in the states of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia appear to be contained, according to health officials. New Zealand has not reported any community transmission of the virus for more than three months.

It is the first time that New Zealand has suspended quarantine-free travel from all of Australia since the bubble was introduced in April. The country had previously halted travel from certain Australian states experiencing localized outbreaks.

Travel from New Zealand to Australia will not be affected by the suspension, Ms. Ardern said, adding that the government would arrange return flights for New Zealand citizens and residents currently in Australia.

The announcement comes as both countries’ vaccination campaigns lag behind those in many rich nations. According to New York Times data, 19 percent of people in New Zealand have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 29 percent in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia apologized on Thursday for the slowness of the vaccine rollout. The country had planned to use a combination of locally produced AstraZeneca shots and imported vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. But mistrust in the AstraZeneca vaccine, stemming from concerns about the risk of extremely rare blood clots, prompted Australia to buy 20 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, about one-quarter of which are expected to arrive in August.

Later this month, New Zealand is expected to open up vaccinations to anyone over age 18. But limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine, the backbone of New Zealand’s inoculation effort, means that most residents will not receive a first dose until later this year.

Passengers arrive from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened overnight, following an extended border closure due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

  • Suspension to last at least 8 weeks
  • Australia fighting outbreak of Delta variant
  • Demand for flights had been lower than expected

SYDNEY, July 23 (Reuters) – New Zealand will pause its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia for at least eight weeks starting Friday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as Australia fights an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta virus variant.

“We’ve always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” Ardern told reporters in Auckland.

The “travel bubble” had already been paused for travellers to and from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The bubble was a rare quarantine-free arrangement in Asia, where countries have kept their borders mostly closed during the pandemic. Plans for a Singapore-Hong Kong bubble have been delayed several times.

Demand for flights between Australia and New Zealand has been more subdued than anticipated since the bubble opened on April 19. read more

Scheduled airline capacity between Australia and New Zealand this month is about 44% of 2019 levels, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium, well below initial forecasts of more than 70%. read more

Air New Zealand Ltd (AIR.NZ)and Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX)have been the only operators on the route, and several pauses in the bubble because of small outbreaks dented consumer confidence.

The travel bubble had been launched as test-free as well as quarantine free, but New Zealand this month introduced a testing requirement that made it more costly for Australians to visit.

Air New Zealand said the suspension of the travel bubble was expected to have a short-term operational and financial impact on its business, but it did not provide further details.

Qantas said that starting July 31, the majority of Australia-New Zealand services would be cancelled and that the airline would maintain a small number of flights for essential travel and freight.

The New Zealand government said for the next week there will be managed return flights for New Zealanders from all Australian states and territories that will require proof of a negative pre-departure test. Passengers arriving from Sydney will be required to spend two weeks in government-managed quarantine.

Reporting by Renju Jose and Jamie Freed; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Panel attempts to dispel Covid disinformation. Video / RT

Experts are cautioning that a full travel bubble halt may not be needed despite half of Australia being in lockdown, provided the Government is confident with state border control measures.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be joining Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield to provide an update at 1.30pm regarding the quarantine-free travel arrangements with Australia.

Ardern has cut her recess holiday short, fuelling speculation a full pause of the travel bubble could be on the cards.

However, experts say this might not be necessary provided there was enough confidence in Australia’s ability to contain the virus within states experiencing outbreaks.

The announcement comes after an urgent Cabinet meeting on Thursday afternoon with half of the Australian population in lockdown and NSW yesterday recording the most daily cases since the latest Delta outbreak began.

It’s understood a complete pause on all travel from Australia was being considered at Cabinet.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that an update was expected on Thursday but no update was released.

Now an update has been set for 1.30pm Friday.

Covid

The meeting was understood to be a full Cabinet meeting, with ministers meeting despite many being on leave – including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

Half of the Australian population is currently in lockdown and NSW yesterday had the most daily cases since the latest Delta outbreak began.

New Zealand has paused quarantine-free travel with NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

As of Friday morning quarantine-free travel remained open with ACT, Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, subject to conditions including pre-departure tests.

However, a major safety issue remained with up to half of the arrivals from Australia not being checked for negative pre-departure tests.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told the Herald if the Government was confident in Australia’s state border controls, a full pause might not be necessary.

The current “selective” approach saw travel remain open with states such as Tasmania and Western Australia that had done well to keep the virus from crossing state borders, and stamp out quickly any cases they had seen.

Provided the Government was confident in those state border measures, one option would be a more prolonged pause for those eastern states currently experiencing outbreaks, Baker said.

However, the highly-transmissable Delta variant, which is rampant in NSW, meant the threshold for restricting travel was much lower than previously.

There were also questions around the desirability and practicality of keeping the travel bubble open.

If New Zealand did pause the full travel bubble based on the situation in NSW, then it could be for a prolonged period, Baker said.

“I think largely interrupting most travel from Australia would be sensible given how the virus is moving between certain states, particularly in the east.

“But if they do make a decision based on the situation in NSW it could be for a very prolonged period

A traveller at Sydney Airport on April 19, 2021. Photo / AP

Quarantine-free travel from South Australia to New Zealand will be paused from midnight.

However, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said people currently in the state who ordinarily live in New Zealand will be able to return on “managed return” flights starting with the next available flight, and are encouraged to do so.

A negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours of flying will be required for eligible passengers. They will also need to complete a health declaration confirming they have not been at a location of interest and the Nau Mai Rā travel declaration.

A stay in MIQ will not be required.

“The decision is based on public health advice from New Zealand officials and follows South Australia’s announcement this afternoon that it would go into lockdown for seven days from 6pm tonight,” Hipkins said.

Hipkins said the pause will run for seven days, to 27 July, to coincide with the timing of the lockdown. It will be reviewed on that day.

“We acknowledge this will be disruptive for travellers and organisations.

“However, given the current uncertainty and our consistently cautious approach to prevent COVID-19 from entering the New Zealand community, we are confident it is the right approach.

“The pause means people cannot travel to New Zealand from South Australia after 6pm tonight for the duration of the pause unless they are normally resident here and wish to return.

“We encourage people in this category to consider the option that is available to them over the next seven days.”

The Ministry of Health last night extended its pause on quarantine-free travel with Victoria for two days. The travel bubble freeze would be reviewed again on July 21.

The decision to continue the pause with Victoria was a “precautionary but necessary measure” while investigations continue, the ministry said.

NZ health authorities have also put quarantine-free travel from New South Wales on ice, with the arrangement paused since June 22. The pause would be reviewed again on July 21, the ministry said last night.

Quarantine-free travel remained in place with Queensland, as health authorities considered the situation there posed a low public health risk to New Zealand.

However, the ministry said the situation was subject to no further significant developments.

Anyone who has been in Queensland since June 28 should check the Queensland Health website for locations of interest.

Nurse Aaron Henderson-Smith conducts a Covid-19 swab test at the Rushcutters Bay mobile Covid testing clinic in Sydney on June 25. Photo / Getty Images
Nurse Aaron Henderson-Smith conducts a Covid-19 swab test at the Rushcutters Bay mobile Covid testing clinic in Sydney on June 25. Photo / Getty Images

The travel bubble update comes after another day of grim Covid news for Australia.

Three of the country’s six states are now in lockdown after outbreaks of the Delta variant – which means about 13 million Australians are only able to leave their homes for essential reasons.

Victoria extended its lockdown today, while South Australia announced it would go into a week-long lockdown from 6pm (local time) tonight. Meanwhile, there’s no end in

From 11.59pm on Tuesday, quarantine-free travel with South Australia will be paused for seven days, but Kiwis in the Covid-hit state will still be able to get home.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement on Tuesday night, shortly before the state entered into a strict snap lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of a new Covid-19 community outbreak.

Special green flights would operate for New Zealanders in the state. Passengers travelling on these “managed return” flights would be required to present a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours of leaving.

A completed health declaration and Nau Mai Rā travel declaration would also be required.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: Victoria’s lockdown extended by a week, South Australia to enter snap lockdown tonight
* Covid-19 NZ: No new community cases on Tuesday, six among recent arrivals
* Covid-19: Tourism industry’s ‘new normal’ still three to five years away, but operators not prepared to ‘roll over’ and quit
* Covid-19: Close contacts top 15,000 as super-spreaders spark new stadium cases in Australia
* Covid-19: Lockdown restrictions tighten in New South Wales and Victoria as cases climb

“The pause means people cannot travel to New Zealand from South Australia after 6pm tonight for the duration of the pause unless they are normally resident here and wish to return,” Hipkins explained.

He encouraged those who fit into this category to consider this option available for the next week.

Quarantine-free travel had already been paused with NSW and Victoria. A decision on South Australia was pending.

Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Quarantine-free travel had already been paused with NSW and Victoria. A decision on South Australia was pending.

“The pause will run for seven days, to 27 July, to coincide with the timing of the lockdown and will be reviewed on that day.”

Hipkins said this decision was made based on public health advice from New Zealand officials, and followed the state’s decision to enter the lockdown.

He acknowledged the disruption this caused, but said the uncertainty of the situation and the country’s “consistently cautious approach” to prevent the virus entering the country made them confident it was the right decision.

At this stage, there was no change to quarantine-free travel for the state of Queensland.

Lockdown announced

From 6pm Australian time (8pm NZT), South Australia moved into a seven-day lockdown.

“We hate putting these restrictions in place but we believe we have one chance to get this right,” Premier Steven Marshall​ said on Tuesday.

“We have no alternative but to impose some fairly heavy and immediate restrictions to come in.”

The restrictions limited movement in the community, with people only allowed to leave home to care for someone, for essential work, to exercise with someone from the same household, to buy essential items, or to get a Covid-19 test or vaccination.

New Zealand officials undertook a risk assessment on Tuesday afternoon after the state’s latest Covid-19 cluster grew. The outbreak was confirmed to be the highly infectious Delta variant.

Five new Covid-19 cases had been linked to an elderly man who travelled from Argentina via New South Wales, where

The Balearic Islands are returning to the UK’s amber list from 19 July, less than a month after they were deemed fit for quarantine-free travel.

This means anyone travelling from Ibiza, Majorca or Menorca to England will have to self-isolate for 10 days – unless they are British citizens who have received both vaccines from the NHS or are under 18.

So far the announcement only applies to England, but Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to adopt the same policy.

The move comes less than a fortnight after the Balearic Islands were added to the green list and is in response to a rapid rise in cases. UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters that the government had to “move quickly,” as the cases have doubled on the islands.

It is believed that the uptick in cases is related to end-of-term parties being held in the Balearics.

At the same time, however, a handful of countries have been moved onto the green list and green watchlist. Entrants from Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Croatia and Taiwan will no longer require quarantine on arrival, from 19 July.

‘Impossible to keep up’

For British travellers currently in the Balearic Islands, the news has come as a major blow.

Natalie Ward is currently on holiday with her husband and two young children for two weeks in the islands.

They booked their trip knowing that the next update would take place on 19 July, so arranged to come back that day – as with previous updates, travellers had until the next morning to return home.

“The last time the list changed people had to be home by early Tuesday morning so we planned for that,” Natalie explains. “They’ve changed the times on this update and so it is impossible to keep up.”

Now, the family are due to miss the green list by just 12 hours, forcing them to self-isolate for 10 days with very little notice.

“I am self-employed and will not have to isolate at home with two very small children,” she adds. “My husband will have to work from home which is not ideal for his job either.”

Natalie now faces a £400 (€470) charge from British Airways to rearrange their flights, or having to go into quarantine on her return.

Where is currently on the UK’s green list?

This is now the full list of territories and countries where quarantine is no longer required to enter the UK:

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • The British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria (from 04:00BST on Monday 19 July)
  • Cayman Islands
  • Croatia (from 04:00BST on Monday 19 July)
  • Dominica
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Grenada
  • Hong Kong (from 04:00BST on Monday 19 July)
  • Iceland
  • Israel and Jerusalem
  • Madeira
  • Malta
  • Montserrat
  • New Zealand
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan (from 04:00BST on Monday 19 July)
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

These amendments will undoubtedly be

Sydney lockdown extension confirmed as NSW records 27 new community cases. Video / 9 News

Covid

The Ministry of Health has announced the pause on the quarantine-free travel from Queensland and New South Wales to New Zealand will continue.

It says there is a need to better understand “the developing situation” including the number and pattern of cases being reported in these Australian states.

New Zealand public health staff remain in close contact with Australian health authorities about the actions being taken in each State, the ministry said in a statement released tonight.

“As with previous pauses, it will be under constant review.”

At this stage there is no date on when lifting the freeze would be re-evaluated.

“We consider this pause to be prudent while investigations continue and until further test results are returned,” the ministry said.

From Friday July 9 at 11.59pm, “green flights” will open from Queensland and New South Wales to New Zealand.

Travel on such flights would be limited to New Zealand citizens and Australians who normally reside here. Critical workers who were stranded in Queensland or New South Wales would also be welcome.

Anyone boarding these flights would need to have a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours before departure, the ministry said.

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Travellers were also required to meet all the standard public health measures for travel, which included declaring they had not been in a location of interest in the past 14 days, weren’t symptomatic, weren’t a close contact and weren’t awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test.

When arriving in New Zealand, travellers were asked to monitor themselves closely for any Covid-19 symptoms and to “diligently keep contact tracing records” using the NZ COVID Tracer app or another form of diary, the ministry said.

Likewise, anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should stay at home, get tested, and remain in isolation until a negative test result is returned, the ministry said.

The growing numbers of cases across the globe was a stark reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic was still evolving, the ministry said.

“It reinforces we are taking the right approach with our precautionary actions to protect the public health of New Zealanders.”