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Travellers are seen at Singapore’s Changi Airport. The city state is restricting arrivals from India and has extended its mandatory two-week quarantine period by another week. Photo: EPA-EFE

ExplainerWhy Singapore moved to 21-day hotel quarantine – and a look at the countries with the longest, shortest and ‘most relaxing’ self-isolation requirements

  • Singapore joined Hong Kong in having one of the world’s longest quarantine periods amid concerns about the incubation period of Covid-19 variants
  • Most countries stipulate two weeks, but some like Costa Rica don’t have quarantine, and others like the Maldives just require a negative test
Singapore on Tuesday announced it would extend its quarantine period from 14 to 21 days for most inbound travellers – except those from seven jurisdictions including Hong Kong – as it battles a flare-up in Covid-19 infections linked to a large public hospital.
The city state now joins Hong Kong as having one of the world’s longest hotel quarantines.
Leong Hoe Nam, a Singapore-based infectious diseases expert, said the decision likely came after travellers who had tested negative for Covid-19 after 14 days eventually tested positive. This suggested that the virus incubation period has adapted to three weeks instead of two as was previously believed.

Singapore imposes 21-day quarantine on most travellers, closes gyms

Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, added that some of these cases were travellers who had arrived from areas that have “uncontrolled community infections”, dominated by virus variants including India’s B1617 “double-mutant” strain.

“These variants appear to be much more transmissible, where the standard public health measures may not provide adequate protection from being infected,” he said. “As such, Singapore increased the quarantine period to reduce the risk of further infection spillover to the community.”

Teo suggested that governments take a risk-based approach to determine the appropriate border control measures, adding that countries had different Covid-19 strategies. While some like Australia and New Zealand were working towards eliminating it, most of the other countries aimed to suppress the virus.

“With an elimination strategy, there is generally zero tolerance and very harsh border control measures are likely to be enacted, whereas a suppression strategy aims to minimise the impact of Covid-19 while allowing the majority of social and economic activities to continue,” he said.

This Week In Asia takes a look at other quarantine periods imposed by governments around the world, from the harshest to the ones that could even feel like a walk in the park.


Hong Kong’s 21-day quarantine policy was announced in late December last year, amid the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus.

It was not until April that authorities loosened the restrictions, allowing travellers from lower-risk countries, namely Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, to serve two weeks of quarantine at a designated facility, followed by seven days of self-monitoring.

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For mainland China, the quarantine period depends on which province or city an individual is headed to. Typically, travellers would have to serve a 14-day quarantine at their arrival city but would be subject to stricter requirements when they enter their destination cities after that initial quarantine.

For example, the capital Beijing requires arrivals to clock at least 21 days – seven more days than the mandatory quarantine period – in the mainland before they are allowed to roam the city.

Vietnam monitors border, will do ‘house by house’ patrols as cases spike

Vietnam, which is seeing what authorities describe as a worrying outbreak of local cases, on Wednesday extended the quarantine period for anyone arriving in the country or who had contact with Covid-19 cases to three weeks. This came after patients were found with the mutant strain detected in India.

There are harsh penalties for travellers who flout quarantine rules. In Singapore, for example, breaching quarantine orders could result in a six-month jail term or a maximum fine of S$10,000 (US$7,400) or both. For Hong Kong, the maximum penalty is a HK$25,000 (US$3,200) fine and six months in jail.


Most countries around the world require inbound travellers to serve a mandatory two-week quarantine, with some governments permitting individuals to do so at home and others at designated places like hotels.

Certain countries have shorter quarantine periods, like the United Arab Emirates, which requires vaccinated tourists to quarantine for five days, and non-vaccinated travellers to isolate for 10 days.

Maldives welcomes rich Indians even as others ban flights amid brutal wave

Some countries have done away with compulsory quarantine completely. Costa Rica’s official tourism website states that travellers would not need to be quarantined or even test negative for the virus.

Those entering the Bahamas also need not quarantine but have to produce a negative coronavirus test result if they are not vaccinated. This is the same rule for travellers currently hoping to visit the Maldives and Egypt.
A quarantine sign for so called 'red list' countries. Photo: EPA-EFE


While countries like Singapore do not allow those serving their stay-home notices to exit their residence or facility, other nations like New Zealand afford some leeway.

According to the New Zealand health ministry, those undergoing self-isolation can go for a walk or run or ride their bikes, as long as they are not symptomatic and are socially distanced from others.

New Zealand pauses travel bubble with Western Australia

Thailand had shortened its quarantine requirement to 10 days and travellers could reportedly roam freely within their quarantine facility, using fitness centres and swimming pools. But this has changed as of May, with the country seeing a spike in new cases. Now, all travellers have to serve a 14- day quarantine and remain in their rooms.

But visitors still have the option of spending their two-week quarantine luxuriously on a yacht, in a fresh bid to attract yacht travellers to the Southeast Asian country. Travellers could also serve their compulsory quarantine at a private villa or bungalow. Thailand is aiming to make entry to Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai quarantine-free for vaccinated travellers from July 1.

An empty hotel and beach in Karon, Phuket Island, Thailand. Photo: Reuters


Travellers entering South Korea would need to be quarantined for two weeks at a designated facility unless they have a place of residence that is deemed suitable, although it had said last month that it would lift this requirement for residents who are fully vaccinated.

Those arriving in Taiwan would also need to stay 14 days at either an approved hotel, a government quarantine facility or a suitable residence.

For Japan, travellers also have to undergo the same duration of quarantine, but if they arrive from countries where new coronavirus variants have been found, they would need to serve three days of isolation at a designated location and the remaining period at their residence.

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In Indonesia, travellers would be required to undergo a mandatory quarantine for five days at a dedicated facility.

Nearby, for those entering Malaysia, a seven or 10-day quarantine is required. Those that fall into the first category are those who present a negative test result.

Travellers to the UK need to quarantine for 10 days but the government has said it plans to soon announce a list of countries open for its people to enjoy quarantine-free travel later this month. Reports point to how travellers would not need to be quarantined when they return but have to provide negative test results.

Note: this explainer is not exhaustive and these travel regulations are subject to change at any time.