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SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be tightening border measures on seven African countries, following recent reports of a potentially more contagious COVID-19 variant circulating among the countries.
The ministry said in a media release on Friday (26 November) that from 11.59pm on Saturday, all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with travel history to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe within the last 14 days will not be allowed to enter or transit through Singapore.
Meanwhile, South Africa – which is currently under Category II of Singapore's health measures framework, with travellers subjected to a seven-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at their place of accommodation – will be placed in Category IV with the other six countries from 11.59pm on Saturday.
As such, all returning Singaporeans and permanent residents from these seven African countries will be subjected to a 10-day SHN at dedicated facilities.
These new border restrictions will apply for four weeks before being reviewed, and may be extended if necessary.
Transport Minister S Iswaran said in a media doorstop interview on Friday that the number of passengers entering into Singapore from these countries is very low.
"Only one country has direct air links with Singapore, and that's South Africa. I believe there is one flight a day, and even then, the volumes are very low," he said.
"Most of them are actually transit passengers going on to other destinations, and a very small number - under 10 a day - actually enter Singapore. But I think this is an important precautionary measure and it's part of our larger strategy and approach to the reopening of our borders."
No cases of COVID-19 variant in Singapore
MOH said that Singapore currently has no cases of the B.1.1.529 variant that may be circulating in the seven African countries.
"Scientists around the world are still finding out more about the new variant of virus, such as whether it is more transmissible than the Delta variant, whether it is more likely to lead to severe illnesses, and efficacy of existing vaccines against this new variant," the ministry said.
"While the variant has been suggested to be more transmissible, there is currently insufficient evidence to determine if this variant is associated with any change in disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy. These aspects are being investigated."
Countries added to Cat II and III
From 11.59pm on 1 December, 10 countries - Argentina, Kuwait, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Romania and Thailand - will be placed in Category II of the health measures framework.
Under this category, travellers with travel history to these countries will be subjected to a seven-day SHN at their declared place of accommodation. They will also have to do either an antigen rapid test (ART) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before their departure, and an exit PCR test on the seventh day of their SHN.
Based on the worsening COVID-19 situations in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein and Slovakia, these countries will be placed in Category III from 11.59pm on 1 December.
MOH has also added Belize, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay to the list of Category III countries.
Under this category, travellers with travel history to these countries will be subjected to a 10-day SHN at dedicated facilities. Like those from Category II countries, they will also have to do a pre-departure ART or PCR test, as well as an exit PCR test after their SHN.
Travellers are advised to visit the SafeTravel website to check the latest border measures for their country/region which will apply upon entry into Singapore. Any changes to border measures will be updated on the website.
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