SINGAPORE - Vaccinated Singapore citizens can enter Malaysia from next week (Dec 20) via the Causeway when the two countries expand a quarantine-free travel scheme at the land borders.
Likewise, vaccinated Malaysians will be able to enter Singapore via the Causeway without quarantine under the expanded land Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme between the two countries.
Currently, only citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of the country they are entering can travel via the land VTL.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on Tuesday (Dec 14) that there will be no change to the current test protocols in Singapore and Malaysia.
"All travellers entering Singapore will have to abide by the prevailing test protocols and safe management measures," MTI added.
For example, all travellers entering Singapore will have to undergo a seven-day Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) regime after arrival. They have to take self-administered ARTs daily till the seventh day after their arrival. The tests on days three and seven have to be done at a testing centre.
Travellers entering Malaysia will also be subjected to a daily Covid-19 testing regime for six days, under the country's current rules.
The VTL scheme for quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Malaysia started on Nov 29, for both land and air travel.
Currently, the land VTL comes with additional restrictions on who could use it, in order to let workers reunite with their families first. This means that leisure travellers are unable to enter Malaysia via the Causeway, but can fly to Kuala Lumpur via the air VTL.
At a press conference by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force on Tuesday, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said the authorities will continue to monitor the demand for the quarantine-free travel scheme.
He added that the authorities will adjust and review the capacity accordingly, taking into account the public health situation in both Singapore and Malaysia.
Mr Gan said there are checks and balances in place, such as the Covid-19 testing regime, to allow Singapore to open up in a safe way.
He also said discussions are under way on expanding the quarantine-free land VTL to rail travel. Currently, land VTL travellers can travel between the two countries only on designated buses.
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the expansion of the VTL scheme is not a full reopening of borders between the two countries, given that a much larger number of people were travelling between the borders on a daily basis before the pandemic.
More than 300,000 people travelled between the two countries via the land borders daily prior to the pandemic. But under the current land VTL arrangement, there is a limit of 2,880 people travelling on 64 designated bus services between the two countries.
When asked if the daily quota of travellers will be raised with the new VTLs, MTI said it is monitoring demand but did not provide specific details.
But designated bus operators Causeway Link and Transtar subsequently put up advertisements online saying that they will be selling more seats soon.
Mr Gan said the primary objective of the quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Malaysia is to let long-separated families reunite.
In response to a question about the authorities’ advice for people looking to head to Johor Baru for day trips, he said: “My advice is that you have to assess the situation and see whether the risk is worth the while.
“I would encourage you to consider very carefully if you want to spend just a day there, bearing in mind that there are testing regimes in place.”
Malaysia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 14) that the expansion of the land VTL was due to increased public demand for it.
It said designated bus operators under the scheme will offer tickets to meet increased demand. The tickets are sold on a first come first served basis.
Prior to purchasing any tickets, travellers into Malaysia using the land VTL are required to register at this website.
Travellers from Malaysia to Singapore are required to register at this website.
Read next - Singapore prepares for Omicron wave: What you need to know about new Covid-19 measures