Malaysia Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob traveled to Singapore today to mark the first day of land border reopenings between the two countries.
Ismail, 61, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong exchanged a fist bump at the launch of the land Vaccinated Travel Lane, or VTL, at Singapore’s Woodlands Checkpoint, where buses leave for Johor Bahru for the first time in nearly two years today. Ismail told reporters that both nations have agreed to expand the travel scheme to other forms of transportation, including rail and car, and for entry via the other causeway, Second Link.
“Both of us have agreed to expand the VTL to include all categories of travelers, through the Second Link (expressway), by train operated by Keretapi Tanah Melayu, and gradually to include personal vehicles such as motorbikes and cars,” he said.
For now, up to nearly 3,000 people are allowed to pass through Malaysia’s Sultan Iskandar Building immigration checkpoint each day. Hundreds of travelers were seen boarding buses limited to 45 seated passengers this morning, including one who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Malaysia. The unidentified person will be quarantined.
“Risk assessment, isolation, and monitoring close contacts will become the norm,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in reaction to the case. Under the VTL, travelers are not required to be quarantined if they test negative for COVID-19.
Joining Ismail were International Trade and Industry Minister Azmin Ali, Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, and Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad.
Malaysia and Singapore closed their land borders in March 2020 in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The causeway that reopened today was said to be one of the world’s busiest land border crossings, catering to around 300,000 people each day before the pandemic hit.