Thousands use quarantine-free Singapore-Malaysia travel lane

In the first five days, 5,033 people from both countries travelled across the Causeway on designated bus services.The Straits Times

In the first five days after border measures were eased, more than 5,000 people travelled quarantine-free between Singapore and Malaysia through the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL).

During the same period, another 2,771 people entered Singapore via air VTL from Malaysia.

On Nov. 29, rules were eased for those who were fully vaccinated — bringing many families together for the first time since borders were closed last March.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) told The Straits Times that in the first five days, 5,033 people from both countries crossed the Causeway on designated bus services.

Currently, only citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of the countries they enter can travel on overland VTLs.

The total number of people on the bus is below the maximum number of people allowed. The quota is 2,880 people per day, with a maximum of 1,440 people vaccinated in each direction.

The ICA said as at 3pm on Dec 3, 4,343 people had left Singapore for Malaysia under the Land VTL, or about 60% of the total allowed.

Entry into Singapore via the Causeway was much lower, with only 690 people heading to Singapore as of 3pm on Friday. This is about 9.5% of the five-day quota.

Meanwhile, most of the tickets from Singapore to Malaysia for the rest of the month have been snapped up.

On December 2, a week after ticket sales began on November 25, Transtar Travel, which operates one of two designated bus services, has sold all but the last four days of the month to Johor Bahru.

On the same day, a spokesman for another bus operator, Handal Indah, also known as Causeway Link, said about 24,000 tickets had been sold from Singapore to Johor Bahru, while about 14,500 tickets had been sold in the opposite direction.

About 90 percent of Handal Indah’s flights to Malaysia have been booked, she said.

The bus operator noted that a small number of ticketed passengers were turned away before boarding due to documentation issues. A Handal Indah spokesman estimated that between eight and 10 people were denied entry every day.

A spokesman said some passengers on Transtar Travel buses had purchased tickets without first checking their VTL eligibility.

Neither operator allows passengers to modify personal details on a ticket after purchase.

A Transtar Travel spokesman said the company hopes to add 10 bus drivers to meet the strong demand.

Of the 2,771 people who travelled by air, 1,773 were travel pass holders, short-term visitors and long-term pass holders. Another 871 were Singapore citizens or permanent residents, while the remaining 127 were children aged 12 and below, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said.

For many, the trip through the VTL marked their first trip home to visit loved ones after nearly 20 months of border restrictions.

Travelers said they hoped the emergence of the Omicron variant would not disrupt quarantine-free travel.

Since the variant emerged, both countries have tightened their Covid-19 testing regimes for travelers.

From 11.59pm on 6 December, travellers arriving in Singapore from Malaysia using both VTLs will be tested daily using the antigen rapid test for 7 days.

In Malaysia, the Ministry of Health requires all travelers on VTL to be tested for Covid-19 on the third and seventh days after arrival.

Singapore permanent resident Tommy Yap, 47, who was on the first VTL flight from Malaysia to visit his family in the city-state, said: “Due to concerns about the new variant, I’m sure travel restrictions will resume, but fingers The cross-VTL arrangement will remain the same.”

The Straits Times (Singapore)/AsiaNews

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