Singapore-Malaysia VTL: First bus leaves Woodlands with 42 passengers
Biotechnologist Kelvin Teo, 35, has not been back home since March 18 last year, when Malaysia imposed a partial lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic situation deteriorated.
Excited to see their family and friends in Johor Baru, he and his wife Christine Poh, 34, turned up at Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange at 5.30am on Monday morning (Nov 29) - 2½ hours before the first bus under the Singapore-Malaysia land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) was due to depart at 8am.
Ms Poh told The Straits Times: "When Malaysia announced the lockdown, we decided to come to Singapore for two weeks because my husband works here. But then, two weeks became two years."
Mr Teo said: "Our parents don't know we are coming. They've been calling us every night to ask us if we've booked tickets. We are planning to surprise them."
The couple had with them a suitcase of snacks, including titbits from Don Don Donki for Ms Poh's three nieces.
The couple are among about 1,440 people expected to leave Singapore via the VTL, which started smoothly on Monday. The only hiccup was when a woman was denied boarding because she was not a Malaysia long-term pass holder. Only citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of the country they are entering can travel under the first phase of the land VTL.
Two other passengers did not show up.
Meanwhile, Malaysian waitress Woo Pey Fen, 41, and her two children were also waiting in line. The family spent eight hours last Thursday and used four devices before they managed to book the bus tickets.
Twelve-year-old Zhan Hua said he is looking forward to eating his grandmother's home-cooked chicken chops.
He said: "We are very close to my grandmother. Our family keep our own chickens and you can't find such crispy and juicy chicken chops here."
His only regret: "My father can't go back with us because he's busy. But he told us to help him hug his parents."
The land VTL currently prioritises workers in Singapore or Malaysia who have not been able to return home since the land border was shut in March last year.
They will no longer have to serve a quarantine upon arrival, unlike those returning home via the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, which requires a seven-day quarantine at designated facilities or hotels upon arrival in Malaysia.
Instead, they will take two Covid-19 tests before entering either Singapore or Malaysia.