SINGAPORE: Some travellers from the United Kingdom are facing difficulties entering Singapore under its vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme due to certain gaps in the system.
The VTL scheme, which allows quarantine-free travel to Singapore, was expanded to the UK in early October. Travellers must fulfil certain conditions, such as being fully vaccinated if they are above 12 years old and having an officially recognised proof of vaccination.
However, those aged 13 to 15 are unable to obtain vaccinated travel passes (VTPs) to enter Singapore because they do not have a National Health Service (NHS) COVID Pass proving one’s vaccination status. The UK government only issues these to people aged 16 and above.
Such is the conundrum for Ms Helen Koh’s family – specifically, her niece, 15, and nephew, 13, both of whom are long-term pass holders attempting to return to Singapore to reunite with their father after spending two years apart.
“They are fully vaccinated (with both doses of Pfizer-BioNTech). You’re just wanting, insisting on a pass that’s not available in their own country, so we don’t know what to do,” said Ms Koh, 48.
“If (authorities want to) only recognise NHS COVID Pass from the UK as a legitimate platform to verify or certify vaccination status, it’s no problem … But they must understand where is the coverage,” she said.
Ms Koh added that the situation is paradoxical because unvaccinated children aged below 12 are allowed to board these VTL flights.
“Why penalise the children between 13 to 15 who are vaccinated? We don’t see the logic.”
Describing her back-and-forth correspondence with authorities, Ms Koh added that the family provided vaccine records for the children, but these were not acknowledged.
“They have the doctor or the vaccine provider endorsing it on a full medical record … but we were told that ‘Oh, sorry, because they cannot get the pass, they are not eligible for the VTL.'”
In an email from the Civil and Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to Ms Koh seen by CNA, the agency said it noted the challenges faced in obtaining the pass for this group of travellers.
“However, we also seek your understanding that the requirement to produce proof of vaccination that we can authenticate and verify safeguards the VTL and public health,” said the email.
It added that authorities are “constantly working to onboard more issuers”, and suggested they contact the UK authorities who issue the certificates or consider taking non-VTL flights.
Non-VTL flights are not an option for the children, as these will entail a seven-day quarantine that will eat significantly into their two-and-a-half-week school holiday, said Ms Koh.
As their holiday break draws nearer, Ms Koh said: “We were very excited (when we first heard the VTL news)… but now, everybody in the family, we are all losing sleep.”