NEW DELHI: Singapore on Wednesday imposed restrictions on air travel amid growing cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and said airlines would not be allowed to sell new plane tickets to travel to the country from December 23. to January 20. Travelers, who purchased tickets earlier, will be allowed to travel under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program without quarantine.

The VTL allows fully vaccinated travelers from selected countries to enter Singapore without being quarantined.

Travelers from Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UK and US can travel to Singapore under the VTL program.

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A spokesperson for Singapore Airlines said it will stop accepting new bookings from December 23 to January 20 (both dates included). “This follows the Singapore government directive to suspend the sale of new tickets on VTL flights designated for entry into Singapore during this period.

“Passengers with confirmed reservations on VTL flights will not be affected by this directive and will be able to continue their journey as planned,” added the spokesperson. “There are no changes to existing VTL or test requirements, and travelers with existing bookings can enter Singapore without quarantine as long as they meet all VTL requirements.”

Singapore is the latest Southeast Asian country to suspend reopening efforts in an attempt to buy time against the most transmissible variant after Thailand halted its entry without quarantine program this week, according to a report by Bloomberg. In Australia, medical experts are pushing to bring back mandatory mask wearing and density limits, while New Zealand has pushed back the gradual reopening of its border until the end of February due to the threat of the omicron variant.

Singapore is also asking people returning from overseas to avoid high-risk mask activities such as dining out or exercising in gyms for seven days after arrival, even if they test negative every day. Previously, returnees were allowed to roam freely once they tested negative.

Local cases in Singapore have fallen from a daily high of more than 4,600 at the end of October to just 221 on December 21, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Still, imported cases – most of them Omicron – are increasing to more than 50 every day, Bloomberg said.