Singapore has announced plans to broaden its list of vaccinated-travel lanes (VTLs), with Hong Kong to be added to more than two dozen destinations that are already part of the scheme. All travellers using the VTLs no longer need to undertake a costly polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at Changi Airport or other entry points to the city state. Instead they only need to test negative in a supervised antigen rapid test within 24 hours of arrival. In practice, the addition of Hong Kong – starting from Friday next week – to the VTL list does not mark a major shift in the status quo for travelling between the two cities. Currently travellers arriving in Singapore from Hong Kong do not need to serve quarantine regardless of vaccination status, so long as they have not been anywhere else within the past 14 days and test negative on a PCR test administered in Changi Airport. Under the latest changes, unvaccinated travellers will have to quarantine for seven days at their place of residence or in designated hotels in Singapore. “I have done this because the connectivity between Hong Kong and Singapore is a very important one for business reasons, but also for people-to-people connectivity reasons. And therefore, we had the unilateral opening,” Transport Minister S. Iswaran said in a press conference. Hongkongers rue cost of ‘washouts’ to return to city battling spike in local cases As the VTL scheme is a unilateral measure, those wanting to travel from Singapore to Hong Kong will still have to abide by the latter city’s quarantine rules. The addition of Hong Kong to Singapore’s VTL list on Wednesday came as authorities in the city state gave an update on a surge in cases fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the current daily caseload of around 20,000 infections was “within expectations” and in line with scientists’ projections. Despite registering 191,882 infections over the past 28 days, authorities said Singapore’s health care system was stable with just 23 cases in intensive care and 140 requiring supplemental oxygen. Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the country’s virus task force alongside Ong and finance minister Lawrence Wong, said the government planned to ease social distancing measures in a few weeks, once the current surge in infections had peaked and begun to abate. For now, Gan said authorities were looking to streamline Singapore’s safe-distancing measures, so the city state can prepare to fully reopen after Omicron subsides. Under the new rules, households will be allowed to receive five visitors at any one time – instead of five per day – and workers will be allowed to socialise in groups of five, provided they wear masks. Sports that involve fewer than 30 people will also be allowed to resume, so long as all participants are vaccinated, but hospital and nursing home visits will remain suspended until March 20. Broader changes related to travel were also announced on Wednesday, including the aforementioned switch from PCR tests to supervised rapid antigen tests for travellers using VTLs. Singapore’s quarantine system for incoming travellers is also set to be streamlined given the shorter incubation period of the Omicron variant. Self-isolation will be shortened to seven days for everyone other than travellers coming from Macau, mainland China and Taiwan, who can continue to enjoy quarantine-free entry to the city state. Getting Covid in Singapore: after 6 days in home isolation, I was free to leave A restricted category for places that require stricter border measures will also be created, though no country or region falls under it as of now. Singapore currently has 24 active VTLs with destinations including the United States, Britain and South Korea, and said on Wednesday it will resume three – with Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – that were previously delayed. It is also adding two more VTLs to the Philippines and Israel from March, bringing the total number to 30 including Hong Kong. Other places in Asia welcoming vaccinated travellers include Thailand , which started issuing quarantine waivers earlier this month, and Vietnam , which has proposed a full reopening of the country to foreign visitors from March 15.