'Not worth the hassle': Testing regime deters some S'poreans from using land VTL to visit Johor Baru
SINGAPORE — When legal executive Chua Xun Jie first heard that vaccinated Singapore citizens will be able to enter Malaysia using the quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme from next Monday (Dec 20), his immediate thought was: “Yes, finally we can visit!” Then, his enthusiasm subsided when he mulled over the testing involved.
- The land VTL scheme between Malaysia and Singapore will be open to all vaccinated citizens of Malaysia and Singapore from Monday (Dec 20)
- This means citizens of both countries can cross the Causeway in either direction under the scheme
- Some Singaporeans who were regular visitors to Johor Baru before the pandemic say the testing regime is too much of a hassle to make a trip worthwhile
- More bus services are being added in response to the extension of the land VTL across the Causeway
SINGAPORE — When legal executive Chua Xun Jie first heard that vaccinated Singapore citizens will be able to enter Malaysia using the quarantine-free vaccinated travel lane (VTL) scheme from next Monday (Dec 20), his immediate thought was: “Yes, finally we can visit!”
Then, his enthusiasm subsided when he mulled over the testing involved.
“I started sharing my excitement with my friends and family, but the testing requirements are the main factor that stopped me from planning anything realistic," Mr Chua, 31, told TODAY after the announcement on Tuesday that the scheme is being extended to citizens of both countries.
"The daily tests back in Singapore as well as in Malaysia are really too much to handle. The price of the tests aside, the daily testing might really take a toll (on me) and will probably not be worth my two-day trip,” he said.
Before the pandemic, he visited Johor Baru about once a month for a quick getaway.
Currently, only citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders of the country they are entering can travel via the travel lane for the land border.
However, with the extension of the scheme from Monday, it means that vaccinated Malaysian citizens can enter Singapore via the Causeway and vaccinated Singapore citizens can enter Malaysia in the same way.
The travel lane scheme between Singapore and Malaysia started on Nov 29.
There are no requirements for travellers to stay in Malaysia or Singapore for a minimum period and no application is needed to travel to Malaysia via this arrangement.
Travellers entering Malaysia from Singapore have to present a pre-departure negative Covid-19 test result and take another test upon arrival.
As a precaution against the Omicron coronavirus variant, effective from Dec 8 until further notice, a professionally administered antigen rapid test will also need to be done at any healthcare facility on the third and fifth day of one’s trip.
In addition, self-administered rapid tests on the second, fourth and sixth day are also required and the test results must be reported on Malaysia’s Covid-19 tracing application MySejahtera.
Travellers entering Singapore from Malaysia must take a pre-departure test and an on-arrival self-administered antigen rapid test under supervision.
They will also have to take Covid-19 tests daily for seven days on arrival.
Self-administered rapid tests are to be done on the second, fourth and sixth day. Travellers must submit their results online using a link that will be sent to their phone via their declared contact details.
On the third and seventh day, the rapid tests will be done in a supervised setting at a test centre.
“The daily tests back in Singapore as well as in Malaysia are really too much to handle. The price of the tests aside, the daily testing might really take a toll (on me) and will probably not be worth my two-day tripSingaporean Chua Xun Jie explaining why he is reluctant to use the quarantine-free travel scheme”
As he contemplates a trip to Malaysia, Mr Chua said that he accepts the need for testing.
“I mean, for now, (I understand that) some testing is necessary and I’m prepared to take a self-administered rapid test before leaving for Malaysia by land even though I’m fully vaccinated," he added.
"The seven-day testing regime is really too much for a short weekend trip. Maybe it’s good for those returning home for a month or more, but not for weekend getaways.”
Home-based baker Mazlina Musa, 54, said that before the pandemic, she would travel across the Causeway almost every weekend to buy ingredients and packaging materials for her baked goods, to eat and to fill her car’s fuel tank.
Unlike Mr Chua, Madam Mazlina did not immediately consider making a trip to Johor Baru after she learnt that she would be able to.
“Need to do a lot of tests for one trip, not worth the hassle. The reason why we could go every weekend last time was because it was very easy, hassle-free but now, not anymore," she said.
"I also found new suppliers here in the last two years so I don’t need to go there. It’s just not worth the time to undergo seven days of tests just to make a day trip there,” she added.
Mdm Mazlina also said that she will make the trip across the border only if she “really needs to” — to visit a sick relative or reuniting with her extended family in Muar, for example.
Business owner Sylvester Ong, 28, who used to travel to Johor Baru about once a month, does not think that he will be making a trip anytime soon because the testing requirements are “too stringent and too much of a hassle”.
One operations manager who wanted to be known only as Mr Leow told TODAY that he is very happy that border links are slowly being restored after nearly two years.
At the same time, though, he is slightly deterred by the tests and the need to book “a specific bus at a specific timing”.
“But overall, I understand the need for testing requirements and they will not deter me from travelling. Quarantines of any sort would be the killer, not testing requirements,” he said.
Singapore’s Transtar Travel and Malaysia’s Handal Indah, which is also known as Causeway Link, have been appointed as travel agents to run designated buses between Singapore and Johor Baru.
Following the announcement that the travel lane for land broders would be extended, Causeway Link announced in a Facebook post that it will operate 10 more daily services in each direction between Larkin Sentral in Johor Baru and Queen Street in Singapore from Dec 20.
More tickets were released for purchase on its website at 8am on Wednesday.
In a separate Facebook post, Transtar Travel announced that it would be operating eight more daily services in each direction between Larkin Sentral in Johor Baru and Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange in Singapore from Dec 20 and these extra tickets will be available from Friday.
Under the current arrangement, each operator has been making 16 trips from Malaysia to Singapore and 16 trips the other way daily, with each bus carrying up to 45 passengers a trip.