Singapore’s borders have effectively been closed for 21 months, so news that the rules will finally be relaxed has sent residents rushing for a ticket out.
From 19 October, people will be able to travel freely from Singapore to a dozen countries around the world, without quarantine and with fewer swab tests, as long as they are vaccinated. By 15 November, another nine countries will be added to the list.
“The cabin fever was just driving us crazy. There’s no demarcation between leisure and work here,” Low Ka Wei, a corporate communications executive, told the BBC.
After the announcement, the demand for tickets was so great that travel websites crashed. The website of Singapore Airlines went down over the weekend, causing a frenzy among eager travellers and leading one Reddit thread to pose the question: “Did we just collectively break SIA’s website?”.
Having no luck online, Mr Low and many others went the old fashioned way: spending hours waiting in line outside a downtown airline office to book.
Stuck on a rock
The country’s closed borders have been a source of frustration for many residents, as has the constantly changing messaging.
Despite a 83% vaccination rate among the population, the government recently imposed Covid curbs once again, limiting the number of people who can gather in public to two.
The rules came as a surprise, after authorities previously said they would abandon a “zero Covid” strategy, and work towards living with the virus.
Even the rules around the vaccinated travel lanes changed less than two days after they were announced, reversing a decision to not include children under the age of 12.
“I’m happy that we’ve now decided on one direction, and I’m glad that we’re sticking with that,” said Mr Low. “It’s important to show that decisiveness to the global community and to citizens – having a direction helps and then we just need to manage expectations after that.”
The perceived flip-flopping provided ample fodder for meme makers online.