Singapore, Malaysia aim to expand land VTL to general travellers from mid-Dec
Singapore and Malaysia are aiming to expand the land Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, which began on Monday (Nov 29), to include general travellers from mid-December, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Discussions will also start on piloting a sea VTL to allow Singapore cruise ships to call at Malaysian ports, said Mr Lee after meeting his counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is here on an official visit.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Datuk Seri Ismail on Monday, Mr Lee said the leaders agreed to work towards aligning safe cruise standards and start discussions on a possible VTL for travel between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and Desaru in Johor.
But these moves would have to take into account the public health situation.
"We are all watching anxiously the new Omicron variant to see how it will behave," Mr Lee said at the Istana.
"But even if Omicron disrupts these plans, our goal will still be to have more open borders between Singapore and Malaysia, and I'm quite confident that after some time, we will be able to make further progress."
Mr Ismail is in Singapore for his first official visit as prime minister. He and Mr Lee had earlier witnessed the launch of the land VTL at Woodlands Checkpoint.
Calling the scheme "another significant milestone" in both countries' cooperation, Mr Ismail said he had discussed with Mr Lee the additional measures that will be taken in the cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore.
"Both of us have agreed to, one, include all categories of travellers for the VTL land, subject to the health requirements determined by both countries.
"Two, to expand VTL land to include additional bus services routes through the Second Link, trains operated by KTM, and gradually to include personal vehicles such as motorbikes and cars," said Mr Ismail.
The VTL cross-border travel scheme currently allows 1,440 citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders quarantine-free entry into each country on designated buses daily.
Mr Lee said the VTL is starting with "modest numbers".
"It will take us some time before we get anywhere near to pre-Covid levels. But we will progress step by step, and get it working first," he added.
At the press conference, Mr Ismail said cross-border movement by air, between Singapore and destinations like Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, was also discussed with Mr Lee.
"Both of us decided that our officials should start to draw up measures for this purpose," he said.