Omicron-concerned Singapore stops VTL travel for work pass holders

Singapore, Dec 4:Singapore government on Saturday said employers of S Pass and work permit holders in construction, marine shipyard and process sectors will not be allowed to make new applications for their employees to enter the country via the vaccinated travel lanes (VTL).
The decision by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) comes in the wake of rising concern over the Omicron variant globally.
On Friday, Singapore had announced the tightening of rules for VTL travellers in view of the new variant (Omicron). The S Pass allows mid-level skilled foreign staff to work in Singapore.
The ministry said that S Pass and work permit holders in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors, as well as other dormitory-bound workers, should come in via the work pass holder general lane.
They may also enter Singapore via ongoing industry initiatives such as programmes with “upstream testing” and isolation in the source country, it said.
“The number of workers entering under these lanes meet industry needs while allowing the entry of these workers to be done at a pace where they can be safely onboarded before entering the dormitories and worksites as these are higher risk settings,” the Channel News Asia quoted the MOM as saying.
The entry of workers under these lanes is done at a pace where they can be safely onboarded before entering high-risk settings like dormitories and worksites, said MOM in a statement. For instance, workers have to show verification of vaccination and go for medical examination under these lanes.
The Ministry said workers, who have obtained approval prior to the effective date to enter Singapore via VTLs, will still be allowed to do so.
“They will need to take an on-arrival COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test and self-isolate while waiting for the results. Those who test negative will go through the five-day on-boarding programme. More details will be communicated to the employers,” it added.
The onboarding programme is an existing requirement for new construction, marine shipyard and process sector workers. Safe onboarding includes verification of vaccination, medical examination as well as a settling in programme.
According to the Singapore Contractors Association Limited, the Association of Singapore Marine Industries and the Association of Process Industry, the number of work permit holders in these sectors has declined by more than 15 per cent or 60,000 since end-2019.
The three associations said in July that restrictions related to COVID-19 safety measures have resulted in project delays and significant labour cost increase, which in turn affect the viability of businesses.
“Besides delays in housing and infrastructure projects, which have implications for home owners and Singaporeans, there are implications for Singapore’s global competitiveness, credibility of our businesses and locals employed in these sectors when projects are not delivered on time or terminated,” The Straits Times quoted the three industry bodies. (PTI)