How The New Travel Restrictions Imposed By The Singapore Government Affect You

The World Health Organisation has announced that Covid-19 is now a pandemic, and countries such as France and Italy, which has seen a rapid increase in the number of infections, have declared a lockdown.

While Singapore has yet to declare one, the government has imposed travel restrictions. Essentially, you may want to reconsider your travel plans if you don’t like the idea of having to isolate yourself for 14 days after you have returned from the countries mentioned above. That, and the fact that you also risk getting infected with Covid-19 when you travel to those countries.

The new measures, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing in his Facebook post, are to ensure that the “healthcare system does not get overwhelmed by people entering Singapore for the sole purpose of seeking treatment”.

The COVID-19 has been widely reported nationally and globally for the past few weeks and unless you haven’t been on social media, you would know that people have been deferring their travel plans until the situation gets better. 

Here are the travel restrictions that are currently in effect if you are planning, postponing or cancelling a trip.

Travellers from all cities except Hubei, China

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The government has imposed a 14-day Stay-home Notice (SHN) for all Singaporeans and residents who have travelled outside of Singapore as of March 23, 11.59pm. Short-term travellers will not be allowed to enter or transit in Singapore.

Ministry of Health wrote in a statement:

In view of the heightened risk of importation of COVID-19 cases into Singapore, all short-term visitors will now not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. This is also to conserve resources so we can focus on Singaporeans.

Previously, except for a handful of countries, short-term visitors from elsewhere were allowed to come into Singapore, save they were issued a 14-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) upon arrival. This meant, however, that resources were being expended to serve and enforce SHNs on them, and if they fell ill, to provide them with medical treatment. Yesterday, there were still 533 short-term visitors arriving in Singapore.

This arrangement will also affect work pass holders who commute to Singapore for work: “Ministry of Manpower will only allow the entry/ return of work pass holders [2], including their dependents, for those providing essential services, such as in healthcare and transport.”

The statement wrote: “The Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee has agreed that Malaysians with Singapore work permits will continue to be able to work in Singapore during this period, with appropriate accommodation arrangements. The transport of all types of goods between Malaysia and Singapore will also be facilitated. Discussions in the Committee are ongoing.”

Since the Malaysian government announced the lockdown, Johor residents working in Singapore scrambled to cross the border. According to the government, 300,000 people commute from Johor to Singapore every day, as most of them have jobs here. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) have pledged to help them find temporary housing. MOM is also rolling out a financial plan to give companies affected $50 per night for each affected employee for 14 nights to help them tide over accommodation costs.

Travellers to Mainland China

From 1 February 2020, 2359 hours, all new visitors with recent travel history to mainland China within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or to transit through Singapore.

From 18 February 2020, 2359 hours, Singapore residents (Singaporean Citizens and PRs) and long-term pass holders (including Work Passes and Permits, Student Pass, Dependent’s Pass and Long-Term Visit Pass) returning to Singapore from mainland China (outside of Hubei) within the last 14 days will be placed under SHN. Travellers from Hubei shall be subject to quarantine.

Major airlines that are waiving rebooking and change fees 

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Singapore Airlines

SIA will waive rebooking fees for tickets issued on or before 15 March, for travel up to 31 May. Customers can cancel their existing flight itineraries and rebook their flight at a later date, for trips to be completed by 31 March 2021, the airline said on Sunday (15 March). It will also waive change fees for all new SIA and SilkAir tickets issued from Sunday to March 31, it added.

Scoot

Scoot is waiving change fees if you reroute to another Scoot destination, rebook the flight to a later travel date with the same origin and destination or offering 100% refund via a travel voucher for travel periods from 23 January to 31 May 2020 (inclusive).

For bookings made on or before 15 March 2020, for travel up to 31 May 2020, Scoot offers voucher refunds for flexible rebooking. The vouchers will fully cover the cost of bookings made on or before 15 March and will be valid for 12 months. They will remain valid for 12 months, during which time customers who have had to reschedule their plans can do so. To facilitate the process, Scoot said that it will be launching a self-service portal for all eligible customers to obtain the vouchers.

Emirates (Emirates flies to Switzerland, UK and ASEAN countries)

Emirates allows customers to change their travel dates without getting charged change and reissuance fees. This applies to any bookings made before 31 March 2020. Customers can change their booking to any date for travel within an 11-month date range in the same booking class without incurring change fees. Current refund and rebooking conditions for tickets issued before 5 March still apply.

British Airways (British Airways flies to Switzerland, UK and ASEAN countries)

The airline announced on its website that it allows customers to change their destination, date of travel, or both for free, on all new bookings made from 3 March to 31 May 2020, as well as any existing bookings that depart up to Sunday 31 May 2020.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines is waiving change fees for all travel departing in March or April 2020, as well as all tickets purchased in March 2020. For flights 1 May 2020 or later, please continue to check back on the website as the situation evolves.

American Airlines 

If you bought your ticket before 1 March 2020, for travel through 30 April 2020, you can rebook without change fees. If you booked your trip from 1 to 31 March 2020, for travel through 30 January 2021, you can also change your reservation at a later date without change fees.

Finnair

You can change your travel date without a change fee and travel until 30 November if you made your booking latest on 30 April 2020 and your original travel date is latest on 30 November 2020.

KLM (flies to UK, Switzerland)

If you have a KLM ticket starting with 074, issued on or before 31 March 2020, and valid for travel between 4 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, regardless of the destination, you can postpone your trip at no extra cost. Your new departure date should be no later than 31 May 2020.

Jetstar 

For new flight bookings made from 10 to 31 March 2020 for travel on or before 30 June 2020, you will be able to either make one date and/or time change to each flight within our booking, without any Change Fees or get a full refund in the form of Jetstar travel voucher valid for 6 months from date of issuance.

Please check your airline’s website on their latest rebooking/cancellation policy if you decide to postpone your trip to any of these countries.

Does my travel insurance allow me to change or cancel plans?

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) first declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global health emergency on 30 January 2020 and has since declared that it is a pandemic on 12 March 2020. As it is anticipated that more countries will be affected, these developments are considered to be a known event globally.

Generally, regular travel insurance policies cover you if your trip cancellation/ disruption is made due to an unforeseen event. However, insurance companies now consider COVID-19 to be a known event and hence might not provide coverage for any trip cancellation/ disruption claims arising from the COVID-19.

Some insurance companies have also issued announcements on their sites regarding the Coronavirus outbreak and whether claims arising from Coronavirus-related disruptions will be covered.

AXA

If you have purchased your trip and travel insurance policy, 

  • On or after 12 March 2020: you will not be covered for claims arising from the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier dates apply for Wuhan, Mainland China (excluding Wuhan), Daegu City and Cheongdo county (South Korea), Iran, Northern Italy, Japan and rest of South Korea.
  • On or before 11 March 2020 and have not commenced your trip: you will be covered for trip cancellation claims if you decide to cancel your trip. If you have not departed Singapore and decide to proceed with your trip, you will only be covered for non-COVID-19 related claims according to your policy coverage. Any claims arising from the COVID-19 outbreak will not be covered. 
  • On or before 11 March 2020 and you have commenced your trip: you will be covered for claims arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

NTUC Income

They will cover your trip cancellation or postponement claim if you are travelling to Mainland China, South Korea, Japan, Iran or Northern Italy within 30 days from today and you have purchased your policy before certain dates to these countries:

  • 8pm on 20 January 2020 for travel to Wuhan 
  • 7pm on 27 January 2020 for travel to the rest of Mainland China
  • 6pm on 23 February 2020 for travel to Daegu & Cheongdo in South Korea 
  • 9am on 4 March 2020 for travel to the rest of South Korea, Japan, Iran and Northern Italy

FWD

If you had bought your travel policy,

  • On or after 23 January 2020 for travel to Mainland China (excluding HK, Macau and Taiwan): they will not cover any claims related to the outbreak. 
  • On or after 31 January 2020 for travel to anywhere globally: they will not cover claims for ‘Trip Cancellation’, ‘Trip Postponement’, ‘Trip Cut Short’ & ‘Trip Disruption’ related to the outbreak. 
  • On or after 6 March 2020 for travel to anywhere globally: they will not cover any claims related to the outbreak as this is considered a known event.

MSIG

They do not cover any claims arising from COVID-19 outbreak for trips to or passing through these destinations if the policy or trip is purchased on these dates or later:

  • 22 January 2020 for Wuhan
  • 23 January 2020 for Hubei Province
  • 27 January 2020 for Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan)
  • 23 February 2020 for Daegu or Cheongdo of South Korea
  • 27 February 2020 for South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan and other destinations

Aviva

According to the notice on Aviva’s website, “Travel insurance policies purchased on and after 20 January 2020 are not eligible to claim for any loss related to COVID-19 as it is a known event. All other claims unrelated to this event will continue to be covered.”

DirectAsia

DirectAsia Travel Insurance does not cover any claims arising from COVID-19 outbreak for trips to or passing through the following destinations if the policy or trip is purchased on these dates or later: 

  • 22 January 2020 for Wuhan
  • 23 January 2020 for Hubei Province 
  • 27 January 2020 for Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan) 
  • 23 February 2020 for Daegu and Cheongdo of South Korea 
  • 3 March 2020 for northern Italy, Japan & South Korea 

With the announcement by WHO on 12 March 2020 declaring Covid-19 is now a pandemic, there will be no coverage for any claims arising from COVID-19 for any trips departing Singapore on/after 12 March 2020.

If you need to travel overseas during this period, do check on the latest travel advisories, as well as the entry restrictions of the countries you are travelling to.

Images: 123RF.com
Text: Sheila Chiang

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