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35,000 Singapore residents applied for quarantine-free travel online at the same time

In unexpected development, website promptly fell over

A website operated by Singapore’s border control agency, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), fell over for five hours almost as soon as registrations for overseas travel were offered to expats who had been stuck in the city-state for over 18 months.

Singapore currently operates "vaccinated travel lanes" (VTLs) that let citizens and permanent residents travel to certain destinations. But residents on other visas must apply to use VTLS. Around 27 per cent of Singapore's population use those visas, many of them citizens of neighboring Indonesia or Malaysia who come to the island nation to work for short periods of time.

When Singapore's borders closed in March 2020, those workers faced a difficult decision – to find accommodation in Singapore, or quit their jobs and hope losing their income would not see their families suffer.

Over 10,000 Malaysians decided to stay and ride it out for the long haul.

Many were understandably keen to go home at the earliest opportunity, so when the site went down, the level of anger on social media went up.

Online applications to use the VTL opened at 10:00am for Indonesia and Malaysia, and 6:00pm for India, Finland and Sweden. The site crashed soon after 10:00pm. At around noon, Singapore's SafeTravel site – a travel and visa advice service – also crashed, offering mixed messages that it was "undergoing maintenance" and that the application was "currently unavailable".

According to ICA, the errors were caused when 35,000 people had tried to log on at once. ICA had predicted a surge, but a configuration error meant auto-scaling failed.

ICA and SafeTravel eventually became available between 3:00pm and 5:00pm, with a warning that the application service was experiencing high volume and might not be at its best.

Singapore plans further opening up to its neighbours, but will still require registration – and presumably also some load balancing and other auto-scaling tech. ®

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