COVID-19 updates for those planning a trip to Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand

departure hall of Gimpo International Airport

May witnessed a rise in trips abroad as a result of additional relaxing of immigration restrictions in several countries, with aviation traffic on certain international routes reaching pre-pandemic levels.

The amount of traffic on a global level in May was 68.7 percent of 2019’s, which is the best comparison to traffic before COVID-19 thus far this year.

Amidst inflation, hefty jet fuel costs, and lacking consumer confidence, there is still a travel recovery, demonstrating that individuals continue to be quite keen to travel overseas. However, with many countries seeing an uptick in recent COVID-19 cases, including our sunny island, will we all be able to hop on board our next flight soon?

Stay on this page for COVID-19 updates for those planning a trip to Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand.

streets of Japan

Image Credits:

On 14 July, Japan issued a public health alert, advising people to take extra precautions in light of the upcoming summer holidays as a fresh wave of coronavirus infections looked to be spreading quickly.

The number of reported cases in Tokyo rose to 16,878 on 13 July, reaching levels not seen since early this year. This is the greatest number of cases since February. On 14 July, the capital reported 16,662 new cases and increased its alertness to the maximum level. More than 50% of the cases recently are caused by the BA.5 mutation.

Asians in Australia

Image Credits:

The health system in Australia is also on high alert as a result of a recent uptick in cases caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which has brought COVID-19 numbers to levels that are not far off from records set earlier in 2022.

After achieving world-beating immunization rates, Australia ended stringent social distancing regulations and emergency lockdowns at the beginning of this year. Authorities have warned that there might be millions of new infections in the nation over the next few weeks while ruling out any stringent limitations to stop the spread despite the fast-moving subvariants.

South Korea
People drink and eat outdoors in downtown Seoul

Image Credits:

As infections decreased after reaching a peak of more than 600,000 per day in mid-March, South Korea abandoned the majority of its pandemic-related restrictions in May, including a requirement that people wear outside masks. But for the first time in two months, the number of COVID-19 infections in South Korea has risen beyond 40,000, and the government has issued a warning about a probable five-fold increase in the following months.

The government does not currently have any intentions to reinstate limitations, but it does not completely rule them out if the COVID-19 scenario undergoes a major shift. They are likely to increase quarantine checks at major airports as the volume of travelers is anticipated to increase significantly over the summer vacation period amid a new wave of viral recurrence, according to the most recent news on 15 July.

To strengthen quarantine inspection, an extra 200 quarantine employees will eventually be sent to Incheon International Airport, the main entry point into the nation, and seven other regional airports. Separately, the government will deploy roughly 2,500 employees to the nation’s busiest tourist destinations to monitor adherence to antivirus regulations and hygienic measures.

New Zealand
streets of New Zealand

Image Credits:

As we come to a close, the most recent updates for New Zealand have it that the number of new COVID-19 cases has significantly increased over the last few weeks, and experts are predicting that this wave of Omicron seems worse than the first.

To stop the spread of COVID-19 and ease pressure on the nation’s healthcare system, which is grappling with an inflow of flu and COVID-19 patients, the New Zealand government introduced free masks and fast antigen tests on 14 July.

People are currently compelled to wear masks in public indoor areas, such as in stores, libraries, and public transportation under New Zealand’s current “orange light” rules. A switch to “red” constraints would impose a 200-person indoor gathering cap, but there is currently no political support for such an interruption, and the majority of infectious disease specialists do not believe it would have a substantial effect.

Updates from the World Health Organization (WHO)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

On 12 July, the head of WHO issued a warning that recent COVID-19 infection waves indicate the epidemic is far from finished. Early in July, the COVID-19 emergency committee of the WHO convened by video conference and declared that the pandemic continues to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the most serious alert the WHO can issue.

The committee concluded that the course of viral evolution and the attributes of newly emerging variants continues to remain largely unpredictable and that the probability of new, more adaptable variants springing up with varying degrees of infectivity and immune escape ability increased in the apparent lack of actions to minimize transmission.

And true enough, as we’ve learned over the years, the changes brought about by COVID-19 are not to be taken lightly. For those who are traveling, it would be wise to keep checking back on the news on the latest restrictions or refer to the specific embassy’s news on any possible update on travel restrictions. We hope everyone will get to vacation with minimal disruptions but stay safe even while treading within the boundaries of Singapore.

Editor’s note: All information published at the time of writing is accurate.


Frequently Asked Questions On COVID-19 Booster Shots

A booster shot is a supplementary dose of an immunizing agent administered as an injection. In particular, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) booster vaccine shot helps improve your protection after receiving your first two doses of the vaccine. It aids in providing long-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Before getting your booster shot, it is best to educate yourself about the frequent questions surrounding it. On that note, here are the answers to the frequently asked questions on COVID-19 booster shots.


According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the following people are recommended to receive a booster shot of a PSAR-authorized mRNA vaccine after completing their primary series.

a. People aged 30 years and above,
b. Residents of aged care facilities*,
c. Healthcare and frontline workers*, and
d. People and staff in institutionalized settings*

Note: *Must be 18 years old and over.


At the time of writing, individuals aged 29 and below are not yet recommended to receive the booster shot. However, there are exceptions to this. People who are 18 years old and over are recommended to receive the booster vaccination if they are healthcare workers, frontline workers, or if they belong to institutionalized settings. Exceptions were given to people who are at high risk of infection.

Alongside EC19V, MOH states that it will continue to monitor data and will update the recommendations when necessary.


The booster shot or booster dose is recommended to be taken from six months after you have received the initial two doses of your COVID-19 vaccine. People who are eligible for booster shots will be gradually invited to receive their vaccination through SMS. An SMS with a personalized link will be sent to your handphone number. Please use it to book for an appointment on

Eligible seniors aged 60 years and above (i.e., have met the recommended window of about six months after their second dose) will be able to walk into any Vaccination Centre or participating Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC). They can step inside these establishments without a prior appointment to receive their booster shot. People who belong to this category are recommended to get a booster shot as the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age.


According to Singapore’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak, taking a different brand of mRNA vaccine as a booster will lead to an equally effective outcome as receiving the same brand of COVID-19 vaccine. He assured the public of its safety by speaking from his personal experience. At a press conference last November 8, he shared that he was able to receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for his first two doses and the Moderna vaccine for his booster dose.

He said: “This is perfectly safe and provides adequate continued protection against COVID-19. If you are eligible, get your booster vaccinations within the range of vaccines available that the expert committee has recommended.”


The dosages for booster vaccinations differ per type. For instance, the booster dose of the Moderna vaccine is 50 mcg. It is less than the dose given to the first two doses. On the other hand, the booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the same as that used for the first two doses. Recipients of this booster will get a dosage of 30 mcg.


People who are immunocompromised are already required to receive three doses as part of the primary series. According to MOH, they are recommended to receive a booster dose of PSAR mRNA vaccine. They must receive the booster dose from six months after the completion of their three-dose enhanced primary series.


Individuals who received two doses of Sinovac/Sinopharm are recommended to receive a dose of the PSAR mRNA vaccine as a booster. This is only if the individuals are not contraindicated to receive the mRNA vaccines.

Image Credits:

Sources: 1 & 2


Vaccination Aftercare: 4 Don’ts After Getting Your COVID-19 Shot

It is normal to feel nervous or worried about getting your COVID-19 shots. However, public health officials regard these COVID-19 vaccines as safe and as a means to end the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Reduce your worries by being prepared. Start by reading through the following vaccination aftercare tips.


A tattoo is a form of body art where the design is created by inserting ink, dyes, or pigments into a person’s skin. Because your body does not want these foreign pigments, it initiates an immune response by sending off specialized cells to the tattoo site. COVID-19 shots also trigger an immune response. Moreover, similar side effects such as arm soreness, pain, and redness can be felt soon after getting vaccinated or tattooed.

Dr. Abisola Olulade, a San-Diego based physician, recommends waiting at least a few days between your vaccination and tattoo to rule out any possible side effects. She adds that some people may find it challenging to manage “two different areas of the body that are painful at the same time”. Consult your doctor if you are planning to get your tattoo after getting your COVID-19 jab.


Forcing yourself to workout after getting vaccinated will likely make you feel worse. Recently, there was a 16-year-old male who suffered a suspected cardiac arrest after getting his COVID-19 shot. He performed strenuous activity such as carrying heavy weights above his own body weight, days after getting the vaccine.

According to the expert committee, people should avoid strenuous activity after either the first or second dose of mRNA vaccines. The committee advised against strenuous activities for a week after each dose.


Like all drugs, no vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines are generally given to healthy people for disease prevention. Thus, the tolerance to vaccine adverse events is substantially lower than that for the drugs for disease management. It is vital that the country has a robust vaccine safety monitoring system that can effectively detect early safety signals of concerns and mitigate them.

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to report serious adverse events suspected to be associated with vaccines. They need to report it to the Health Sciences Authority.

If you experience symptoms after getting jabbed, do not hesitate to report them. This information helps them to track side effects and monitor severe adverse events. Tracking these side effects or adverse events will also help with future vaccine development.


Stay hydrated after getting your vaccine. Water aids your body process its immune response to the vaccine. If you experience fever as a result of the vaccine, staying hydrated can help your body to fight it off. Aside from fever, there are other side effects that you can expect.

Image credits:

Common side effects observed with the COVID-19 vaccines include:

a. Pain, swelling, and redness on the arm where you received the vaccine
b. Chills or fever
c. Tiredness
d. Headaches
e. Joint pain or muscle ache

Experts stated that these side effects typically go away within a few days. Continue to stay vigilant!

Sources: 1, 2, & 3


S’pore Chosen As BioNTech’s New Regional Headquarters

Since vaccination against COVID-19 began, countries have exhausted their efforts to secure sufficient doses that will inoculate their population. Securing enough doses to cover the population is not an easy feat. Manufacturing setbacks, travel limitations, and other factors have slowed down the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in some countries.

The World Health Organization explained that the vast majority of COVID-19 shots have been received by developed countries, while developing countries have obtained less than 1% (as of April 2021). In Singapore, a total of 4,047,651 vaccine doses have been administered as of May 30, 2021.

To further increase the production of vaccines and to address the current situation, BioNTech announced that it will open a manufacturing site in Singapore. BioNTech has chosen the country as its new regional headquarters. It is going to be its first manufacturing facility outside of Germany.

This venture is supported by Singapore Economic Development Board — a government agency under the trade ministry. Moreover, this expansion initiative is expected to create up to 80 additional jobs.


BioNTech (Biopharmaceutical New Technologies) is a German biotechnology company that manufactures and developes active immunotherapies for patient-specific approaches. It was founded in the city of Mainz in 2008. In 2020, it participated in the global fight against the pandemic by developing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

According to BioNTech, the Singapore manufacturing site will “address potential pandemic threats in Southeast Asia and will increase BioNTech’s global supply capacity of product candidates – also beyond vaccines – based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology”.

Image Credits:

The mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, prompt the body to make a protein that is part of the virus. This aims to trigger an immune response.

The new manufacturing site will be able to produce hundreds of million doses of mRNA-based vaccines each year, depending on the specific vaccine. BioNTech projects that its Singapore facility could be operational as early as 2023.

Sources: 1, 2, & 3


COVID-19 Self-Test Kits Will Be Sold At 3 Pharmacies From June 16

Key Highlights

  • The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has granted interim authorization for four Antigen Rapid Test (ART) self-test kits.
  • These self-test kits will be available from June 16 at Guardian, Watsons, and Unity pharmacies.
  • Sales will be initially limited to 10 self-test kits per person.

In line with Singapore’s strategy to increase the rate of testing and to quickly detect COVID-19 cases, self-administered test kits will go on sale from June 16. These self-test kits will be helpful for front-liners who want to test themselves frequently or for individuals who are concerned about being infected.

The four Antigen Rapid Test (ART) self-test kits include the Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Antigen Self-test, SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal, QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test, and SD Biosensor Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test.

These self-test kits can be used by consumers to detect active SARS-CoV-2 infection in nasal swab samples. ARTs can generally achieve a sensitivity of about 80% for cases with higher viral loads and a specificity range of 97-100%. Since these self-test kits are meant to be used by consumers (i.e., even without training), they can be bought without a physician’s prescription.


The self-test kits will be available at selected Guardian, Unity, and Watsons outlets islandwide. More retail locations will soon carry the self-test kits. This will be done in a progressive fashion.

A recent interview of a Dairy Farm Group spokesperson stated that the Abbott PanBioTM COVID-19 Antigen Self-test and the QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test will be available at selected Guardian outlets. All 79 Guardian stores with an in-store pharmacy will carry the COVID-19 self-test kits including the Guardian store at the Giant outlet in Suntec City.


A spokesperson for Watsons stressed that it would adhere to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) recommended guidelines for the selling price of the self-test kits. Thus, the price range is from S$10 to S$13 per self-test kit. Prices will depend on the size of the pack purchased.

To ensure that there will be “adequate supplies for all”, the Health Ministry’s Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak said that sales will initially be limited to 10 self-test kits per person.


Start by collecting your nasal sample using the swabs provided in the self-test kits. Then, prepare the nasal sample with the extraction buffer tube provided. Once your sample is ready, you should examine the test device and read the results. Do not worry about the waiting time! The Health Ministry said that these ART self-test kits produce results in less than 20 minutes.

Please carefully read the instructions that come with these kits to get valid results. Consumers who test negative on their self-test kits should continue to adhere to the prevailing safe management measures.

Image Credits:

While those who test positive on their self-test kits should immediately approach a Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic (SASH PHPC). SASH PHPC will conduct a confirmatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. You are required to self-isolate until you get a negative PCR test result.

Sources: 1 & 2