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VTL land arrangement with Malaysia expected to launch ‘in a few weeks’; scheme extended to more countries including Indonesia

SINGAPORE — The vaccination travel lane (VTL) scheme through land borders with Malaysia may be launched “in a few weeks” with bilateral discussions progressing well, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday (Nov 15).

VTL land arrangement with Malaysia expected to launch ‘in a few weeks’; scheme extended to more countries including Indonesia

A view of the Causeway, one of two land links between Singapore and Malaysia.

SINGAPORE — The vaccination travel lane (VTL) scheme through land borders with Malaysia may be launched “in a few weeks” with bilateral discussions progressing well, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Monday (Nov 15).

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a press release that Singapore will also extend the VTL arrangement to Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the coming weeks, with plans to launch it with India as well.

Last week, Singapore and Malaysia announced that the agreement  for air travel between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport would start on Nov 29.

Mr Gan, co-chair of the national Covid-19 task force, said at a press conference: “Singapore and Malaysia share close ties on many fronts, especially among our people. 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.” 

The vaccinated travel lane allows vaccinated travellers between Singapore and a country under the scheme to travel without needing to undergo quarantine.

Children aged 12 years and below who are not vaccinated will be allowed to travel under the scheme into Singapore, if they are accompanied by a traveller.

CAAS said that it will give more details on the arrangement with Malaysia towards the end of the week.

FOUR MORE COUNTRIES ADDED

In announcing the extension of the VTL scheme to Indonesia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and India, CAAS said all five countries are in Category II of the classification system for border controls by the Ministry of Health (MOH). These are countries or regions with “similar or lower Covid-19 incidence rates than Singapore and the other VTL countries”.

With the addition of these four countries, the overall quotas for the travel lane will increase from 6,000 to 10,000 travellers daily, CAAS said.

The arrangement with Indonesia will start from Nov 29, with applications opening on Nov 22.

Travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE may enter Singapore under the scheme from Dec 6, with applications opening on Nov 29.

Singapore intends to launch a travel lane agreement with India from Nov 29, CAAS added. 

Transport Minister S Iswaran said at the press conference that before the pandemic in 2019, Indonesia accounted for 10 per cent of passenger arrivals, while India made up 7 per cent. 

Before the global crisis, countries on the travel lane scheme with Singapore contributed to just under 50 per cent of total daily arrivals. 

“So our VTL quota amounts to about one-quarter of the total pre-Covid flows from these countries,” he said. 

The addition of five new countries to the travel lane brings the total number under the arrangement to 21, with the Government announcing arrangements earlier with Germany, South Korea and Finland, among other countries.

Travellers from Singapore are reminded to check the entry requirements of the respective countries under the travel lane scheme because they may vary between countries and may change as the Covid-19 situation evolves.

When asked by the media if Singapore would bar travellers from South Korea who are fully vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19 to mirror South Korea’s latest measures, Mr Iswaran said that at this stage, the task force is not contemplating a similar measure but is monitoring the situation. 

As for the Netherlands, which is also a travel lane partner with Singapore, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that although its infection rate is slightly higher than Singapore and is also on an upward trajectory, the task force has assessed that it is not necessary to rescind or reduce the quota under this arrangement. 

Imported cases are still a very small fraction of total community cases, he added, and are unlikely to increase the burden on Singapore’s healthcare system. 

UPDATE ON PASSES ISSUED

As of 11.59pm on Nov 14, CAAS has issued 45,830 passes for travellers from countries under the travel lane, for entry into Singapore between Sept 8 and Jan 19 next year.

It added that as of that date, 24,070 such travellers have entered Singapore, comprising 13,274 short-term visitors or long-term pass holders, 9,595 Singaporeans and permanent residents and 1,201 children aged 12 years and below.

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