By Corina Tan
With both Singapore and Malaysia achieving their vaccination targets, respective Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Ismail Sabri have announced the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme (VTL) to be launched on November 29, 2021. The VTL will apply to air travel between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), which will enable fully vaccinated Singaporeans and Malaysians to travel between these two countries quarantine-free.
The joint statement which was made on November 8, paves the way for a long-awaited cross-border travel that will enable families and friends to be reunited. Business links and workers will also be able to go back and forth with ease. There will be six designated flights for quarantine-free travel and travellers will be subjected to Covid-19 tests 48 hours prior to departure and upon arrival. Applications for the VTL will start from November 22 and the task force of both nations will be announcing more details soon.
PM Ismail Sabri said, “I am very happy that both our countries are finally able to restart cross-border travel through the VTLs. This will help revive our economies, restore our people-to-people ties, and strengthen our bilateral relationship.”
While the VTL is an important milestone in the longstanding relations between Singapore and Malaysia, it does not yet extend to land travel via the Causeway or the Second Link. In a Facebook post, PM Lee reassured the public by saying, “We are also discussing reopening travel across the Causeway and the Second Link. We look forward to launching a similar VTL scheme between Singapore and Johor in the near future.”
Singapore’s Transport Minister, S. Iswaran said in a Facebook post, “Malaysia is our closest neighbour by geography. Our countries are deeply intertwined, with longstanding economic and people-to-people ties. Businesses on both sides will welcome the resumption of quarantine-free travel. I also know that many Singaporeans and Malaysians are looking forward to being reunited with their loved ones after nearly two years. I have also invited my Malaysian counterpart, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong to visit Singapore soon, perhaps on the inaugural VTL flight! Looking forward to meeting in person soon.” Iswaran also said, “Pre-Covid, the Singapore Kuala Lumpur international air route was the busiest in the world, with about 40 flights daily and an average of 7,000 arrivals per day at Changi Airport.”
Many people’s livelihoods depend on the opening of borders, as half a million people made daily trips across the land borders between Singapore and Johor before the borders closed in March 2020. It has been estimated that approximately 100,000 Malaysians remain in Singapore and hope to be reunited with their families soon.