Now that flights are opening up, you may be asking, ‘Is it safe to travel again?’ and ‘What will be the process be for pre-departure testing?’ Everyone wants to get back to their home countries to see family and friends, but there are still many uncertainties about the requirements to get on a plane. Here, DR NEIL FORREST from Osler Health International guides us through some of the most commonly asked questions about travel safety and getting a pre-departure test in Singapore.
Is it safe to travel?
Yes, it is safe to get on a plane again. The aviation industry has gone to great lengths to make things safe. We are already back on public transport in Singapore and, with the proper measures in place, we can start to fly safely as well!
Does having the COVID-19 vaccine mean we can travel as we did in pre-pandemic times?
Not at the moment! For a long time to come, many governments will be understandably cautious about a return to mass travel. Measures such as masks, social distancing, pre-departure testing and quarantine will be a feature of travel for some time.
What is involved in a pre-departure test in Singapore?
Travellers from Singapore entering other countries are required to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline at the time of check-in and at immigration upon arrival at most destinations. You will need to undergo Pre-Departure Testing within a specific time frame from the departure to or arrival into your destination country. The result of your negative COVID-19 test will be available to you within a short period of time in the form of a digital health certificate.
What types of pre-departure testing are available?
There are two types of pre-departure test (PDT). The COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and Antigen Rapid Test are both nasal swab tests. A trained healthcare professional will take a swab sample from the nose and/or throat.
What’s the difference between a pre-departure PCR test and an Antigen Rapid Test?
The PCR test is the best available test for COVID-19 and is recognised internationally. It is done by Ministry of Health (MOH) approved laboratories. It is used to diagnose a COVID-19 infection and for pre-departure testing.
The Antigen Rapid Test (ART) is a nasal swab with a 30-minute turnaround time. You will receive the result during your visit. It can also be used for pre-event testing and back-to-work clearance. Some countries including the UK, Germany, USA and some European countries are now approving its use for pre-departure testing. We expect more and more countries will accept the ART for pre-departure testing in the future. This means that if you need to get somewhere quickly, you have more flexibility to get the test done, receive the results and get to Changi! (And it’s cheaper than the pre-departure PCR test).
At Osler Health, we provide a digital Fit-to-Fly certificate for all pre-departure tests. The turnaround time is 24 hours; we also have an express service with a six-to-eight-hour turnaround time to help you meet your destination requirement or travel schedule.
Do I still need to take a pre-departure test if I’m vaccinated?
Yes! You will still need a pre-departure test even if you have received the full COVID-19 vaccination. This is because that, although there is evidence that vaccines are effective in preventing symptomatic disease, they cannot stop all infections. The extent of their ability in preventing transmission is still being studied.
How long before I fly do I need to get the tests done?
Most countries have stipulated that the COVID-19 test be taken within 72 hours from the scheduled departure time.
Recent changes with some countries like Germany, Austria, Croatia, Italy and Sweden require the pre-departure COVID-19 test to be done within 48 hours of arrival. The Netherlands and Norway require the testing to be done, at most, 24 hours before departure. This is changing all the time; check on the link provided below or speak to your GP clinic.
Do children need pre-departure PCR test?
Whether or not children need a pre-departure swab test will depend on the requirements of the destination country. You should talk to your doctor about these requirements.
Where can I get a pre-departure test in Singapore?
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has licensed certain clinics to conduct pre-departure tests. At Osler Heath, we are fully equipped for all forms of Pre-Departure Testing; we’ve already been running these tests for some time. Our ‘Fit-to-Fly’ service ensures you get the appropriate pre-departure test for your destination country, and a digital health certificate will be issued when the results are negative.
What about returning to Singapore?
All pass holders must obtain relevant entry approvals to return to Singapore. Entry applications can be made three to 60 days before your planned arrival date.
Returning travellers from Europe and the US are required to complete the 14 day Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) in government-approved facilities (designated hotels). Mandatory PCR tests are done on arrival and before day 14 of SHN. Travellers from the UK must complete an additional seven days of SHN at their own residence (so, 21 days of SHN total) with PCR tests on day 0, 14 and 21. Check safetravel.ica.gov.sg for the latest updates.
The information above is provided by IATA Travel Centre and safetravel.ica.gov.sg, as of 29 April 2021.
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