SINGAPORE: Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) will be required to present a valid negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test report, obtained within 72 hours prior to their departure for Singapore, starting from 11.59 pm on May 29 (Saturday), local media reported on Thursday.
All Singaporeans and permanent residents will only be allowed to board their flights to Singapore on presenting negative test results before departure, except for those who have stayed in lower-risk countries and regions in the last 21 days, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on Wednesday night.
The lower-risk countries and regions are Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Macau, according to Singaporean media reports.
The Singapore government has recently said on average, 25 passengers, mostly Singaporean citizens and PRs, were returning home daily from India.
"All travellers will also be required to present their valid COVID-19 PCR test result at the air, sea and land checkpoints when they arrive in Singapore," the ministry said.
Those who arrive in Singapore without a valid COVID-negative report may be denied entry, it added.
Permanent residents and long-term pass holders who fail to comply may also have their permits or passes cancelled, the ministry warned.
Cargo drivers and other accompanying people transporting goods between Singapore and Malaysia will continue to be subjected to an on-arrival rapid-antigen test at the Tuas and Woodlands (land) checkpoints.
They will only be allowed to enter Singapore if they receive a negative test report.
They will not be required to take a pre-departure PCR test, the ministry said.
Since November last year, Singapore has required all long-term pass holders and short-term pass visitors entering the country to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test report obtained within 72 hours before their departure.
"We had not made this a requirement for Singapore citizens and permanent residents at that time, as we did not want to make it difficult for them to return home quickly, should they be caught unprepared by the rapidly deteriorating pandemic conditions abroad," the Channel News Asia quoted the ministry as saying.
Currently, Singaporeans and PRs will take an on-arrival PCR test before they are put in a dedicated stay-home notice facility.
The health ministry said it has put in place advisories on overseas travel for "some time now", and that Singaporeans and PRs abroad "would have had more time to manage the risks of COVID-19 in the countries that they are in".
Travellers from lower-risk countries and regions are either required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival in lieu of a stay-home notice or serve a seven-day stay-home notice at their place of residence with a COVID-19 test administered at the end of the notice.
Travellers who test positive on their COVID-19 PCR test should seek appropriate medical care and ensure that they have fully recovered and are non-infectious before travelling to Singapore, the ministry said.
"Singaporeans who test positive for COVID-19 while overseas and require urgent medical care in Singapore can still return to Singapore via a medevac flight or other equivalent forms of conveyance," it added.
The ministry said the multi-ministry task force has been closely monitoring the global COVID-19 situation and regularly reviewing border measures.
"In recent weeks, the global situation has worsened and we have observed the emergence of new and potentially more infectious variants.
"To manage the risk of imported cases and onward transmission within our community, we will be updating our pre-departure testing requirements," it said.
Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said the latest measure would help minimise the burden on Singapore's healthcare system.
Since the country's policy is for all travellers who test positive to be admitted and evaluated, those who enter Singapore and end up testing positive for the viral disease would have to be taken to hospitals and community care facilities here, potentially straining the system, the Straits Times cited Dr Leong as saying.
But he noted that this does not mean that the health ministry will turn away Singaporeans or PRs who require serious medical attention.
"This move is just to help minimise the cases that are relatively well and could be handled outside of Singapore," he said.
Singapore reported 26 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday -- 23 in the community, one in a dormitory housing foreign workers here and two imported infections.
As of Wednesday, Singapore has reported a total of 61,916 COVID-19 cases and 32 fatalities due to the disease.
The ministry said 61,360 patients have recovered from the disease, while 242 are still in hospitals.