S'pore-Malaysia land border could reopen 'in a few weeks' under VTL-like arrangement

The opening of land borders is much anticipated among residents on both sides of the Causeway. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The land border between Singapore and Malaysia could reopen in a few weeks' time under a "Vaccinated Travel Lane-like arrangement", in what could be a major step in easing the 20-month segregation of the two neighbouring countries that has caused a lot of strain on families.

Without providing further details, co-chairman of the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force and Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Nov 15) said that discussions with Malaysia are progressing well.

"We are working to launch this soon, hopefully in a few weeks' time," he said of the phased opening of Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link. "Singapore and Malaysia share close ties on many fronts, especially among our people."

This comes after earlier announcements that a VTL between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport will open from Nov 29.

The opening of land borders is much anticipated among residents on both sides of the Causeway, and is seen as a more affordable and convenient way for people in both countries to travel.

Before the pandemic, Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link together saw about 415,000 travellers daily.

This stream all but dried up when Malaysia shut its borders in March last year, although the Singapore Government subsequently put in a scheme to allow workers to travel between both countries with a stay-home notice.

There is also a separate scheme for emergency visits in case of deaths or critical illness.

More than 100,000 Malaysians continue to live and work here despite the travel restrictions.

Speaking at a press conference by the task force on Monday, Mr Gan acknowledged the toll border restrictions have had on Singaporeans and Malaysians.

"Many families have been separated from one another for a long time because of border restrictions. We hope this land link arrangement will allow many of them to be reunited, and they will be one of our priorities," he said.

Other travel updates announced on Monday included the opening of VTLs with India, Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

With these, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said that the daily quota for all VTLs will increase from 6,000 to 10,000 - 13 per cent of daily total arrivals at Changi Airport before the pandemic struck.

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