Earlier this week, Malaysia announced that they would finally reopen their borders to international visitors from 1 Apr.
However, on the Singapore side, our land Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with Malaysia is restricted only to bus trips by specific operators.
With bus tickets limited and always tough to get, it’ll be much easier if people could go across in their cars and motorbikes, like before.
Thankfully, Singapore is looking at extending the VTL to cars and motorbikes, as well as private coaches.
Details are still being worked out and will be released when ready.
A reporter brought up the issue during the Multi-Ministry Task Force (MTF) press conference on Friday (11 Mar).
Specifically, the MTF was asked what details needed to be worked out to ensure cars could cross and whether this would happen in time for Malaysia’s 1 Apr reopening.
In response, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong revealed 3 types of vehicles that may be allowed to cross: cars, motorbikes and “additional buses”.
He elaborated that these buses include “private coaches that companies may engage for their workers to go to-and-fro”.
However, Minister Gan didn’t specify what had to be done, simply saying “significant adjustment and fine-tuning of the operations on the ground” was needed.
He did give an example of what was being done, saying the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) were in “close discussion” with their counterparts from Malaysia.
This is to work out the operational details to make an increased volume of crossings safely and smoothly.
Minister Gan said that there are “a few thousand crossings a day” now. In time to come, however, this figure might become a “significant number”, he added.
Now we know what forms of transport are on the table, another question would be whether the gates can open by 1 Apr.
This was answered by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who, unfortunately, said that a date can’t be pre-determined.
He cited the ongoing Covid-19 situations in both countries, adding,
I think we need to time it right… they must be done when the pandemic situations on both sides allow it.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) is in contact communication with Malaysia’s MOH.
The minister explained that the situation is thus being watched closely, and reopening talks will occur “when conditions allow”, the minister explained.
Notably, the ministers didn’t mention whether both sides are discussing whether to allow people to walk across or take public bus services.
It’s understandably frustrating for Singaporeans and Malaysians alike to see the formerly busy Causeway restricted to just a number of bus crossings per day.
That’s why many long to be able to go over in their private transport rather than queue up for bus tickets.
Allowing cars and motorbikes would also help Johor Bahru’s tourism and retail industry, which has been all but decimated.
Let’s hope the days when we could easily pop over for a bite or visit family will return soon.
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Featured image adapted from Google Maps.
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