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Swab tests for that overseas trip could cost more than the return plane ticket

Iata says cost of testing should not hinder travel; new-gen rapid tests cost under US$10 each

Travelling costs will go up by at least S$300 to over a thousand dollars - if more than one test is required.


THOSE planning a round trip to approved regional destinations will have to contend with Covid test costs that could exceed the price of an air ticket.

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) supports the use of swab testing before departure in place of quarantine in order to re-establish global air connectivity. But its stance is the cost of testing should not constitute a barrier to travel.

The association noted that the International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization stated neither passengers nor carriers should bear the cost of testing, where testing is a mandatory requirement.

The announcement of an air travel bubble by Singapore and Hong Kong may have excited residents from both cities itching for an overseas holiday, but reality sinks in when they do the sums and realise that post-Covid travel can be pricey.

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What's going to raise travelling costs is the fee for the swab test for the novel coronavirus, mandated by many governments for inbound travellers.

Travelling costs will go up by at least S$300 to over a thousand dollars - if they have to take more than one such test.

Depending on where they come from, these travellers may have to produce a negative swab test result before departure for the host city, so that's one cost. A quick check showed a pre-departure test in Singapore is about S$200, while one of the approved centres in Hong Kong charges HK$1,500 (S$260). Then, travellers must take another test upon arrival at the host city or place of residence.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong require inbound travellers to take the test when they touch down at the airport. At Changi Airport, this will set the traveller back by S$300. There's no mention of the cost for the swab on the Hong Kong International Airport website.

These additional costs seem punitive versus the price of an air ticket between the two cities. A round-trip flight in December was about S$415 on Singapore Airlines (SIA) budget carrier Scoot including baggage fees; Cathay Pacific prices one such economy class ticket at around S$490, while one on SIA is about S$558.

Iata calls for a test that meets the criteria of speed, accuracy, affordability and ease of use and that could be administered systematically under the authority of governments following agreed international standards. It said the new generation of rapid tests cost less than US$10 per test.

Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, thinks travellers would regard the swab test cost as a fee to "buy peace of mind". She told The Business Times that her agency was busy on Thursday after news of the air travel bubble was reported.

Her agency has been liaising with the Hong Kong Tourism Board, hotels and airlines to come up with tour packages that would be launched once the travel bubble kicks off.

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