by AZREEN HANI / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN
MALAYSIA and Singapore will allow all categories of travellers to be included in the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL), subject to the health requirements set by both countries, said Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
During his official visit to Singapore, Ismail Sabri said he and his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, have also agreed to expand the land VTL to include additional bus service routes through the Second Link, trains operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd and gradually to include personal vehicles such as motorbikes and cars.
“We acknowledge that the reopening of borders is important to reactivate crossborder social and economic activities that will benefit the people of both countries,” Ismail Sabri said.
“We hope that by doing this, it would provide the opportunity for more people on both sides of the Causeway, who have been away from their families due to the Covid-19 pandemic, to be reunited with their loved ones — which we know the people of both Malaysia and Singapore have long awaited for.”
Both of the leaders also deliberated on the cross-border travel by air between Singapore and destinations in Malaysia like Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
“Both of us decided that our officials should start to draw up measures for this purpose,” the PM said.
Malaysia and Singapore launched both the land and air VTLs simultaneously yesterday, after the Causeway was shut for 20 months due to the pandemic.
For now, the land VTL initiative, which allows quarantine-free travel, is only for vaccinated individuals who are citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of Malaysia and Singapore.
Ismail Sabri said he had also discussed with his counterpart additional measures that both will undertake with regard to cross-border travels between Malaysia and Singapore.
The PM added that both Malaysia and Singapore will embark on more active multilevel engagements and a much stronger cooperation in post-pandemic recovery efforts.
“This is crucial also for our cooperation in undertaking effective and meaningful recovery efforts so that our countries will come out stronger following the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ismail Sabri said.
Bloomberg reported Lee as saying that Singapore wants to have more open borders with Malaysia, amid the emergence of new Covid variant, Omicron.
“Of course, all this is Covid-19 permitting because we’re all watching anxiously to see what the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 does and how it will behave,” Lee said in the report. “But even if Omicron disrupts these plans, our goal will still be to have more open borders between Singapore and Malaysia, and after some time, we will be able to make further progress.”
Lee also said that Malaysia has suggested reviving talks for a high speed rail (HSR) project that was cancelled last year.
“Singapore is open to fresh proposals on the HSR. The two ministries will discuss the matter so we can study them and start from a clean slate,” Lee said.
Additionally, during the discussion, Ismail Sabri said they agreed on the need to resume work on their existing bilateral mechanisms.
“This includes the 10th Annual Leaders’ Retreat, which we have not been able to convene during the past two years due to the pandemic,” he said, adding that he looks forward to attending the Leaders’ Retreat in the first quarter of next year .
“This is important to ensure that our multi-faceted cooperation and outstanding issues are kept on the right track with a positive momentum going forward. Subsequently, PM Lee and I will discuss the progress of these bilateral mechanisms at our Leaders’ Retreat,” he said.