Malaysians hope Omicron Covid-19 variant won’t hinder VTL progress with Singapore

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JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysian stakeholders are keeping their fingers crossed that the southern vaccinated travel lane (VTL) for land crossings will not be derailed even as the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in Malaysia and Singapore.

The bilateral quarantine-free VTL-Land kicked off on Monday (Nov 29) for a daily maximum of 2,880 travellers – via designated buses only – for the fully vaccinated, subject to Covid-19 tests. It is for Malaysia and Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.

Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said the strict standard operating procedure (SOP) that was already in place for the facility underlined both governments’ seriousness in ensuring the safety and health of all on both sides of the Causeway.

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Malaysian stakeholders are keeping their fingers crossed that the southern vaccinated travel lane (VTL) for land crossings will not be derailed even as the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in Malaysia and Singapore.

The bilateral quarantine-free VTL-Land kicked off on Monday (Nov 29) for a daily maximum of 2,880 travellers – via designated buses only – for the fully vaccinated, subject to Covid-19 tests. It is for Malaysia and Singapore citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders.

Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said the strict standard operating procedure (SOP) that was already in place for the facility underlined both governments’ seriousness in ensuring the safety and health of all on both sides of the Causeway.

“We cannot afford another lockdown in the country or to close our border again with the emergence of Omicron,” he said.

Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said that many people, in particular those running local businesses around the city area, were relieved following the resumption of cross-border travel under the VTL-Land.

“Authorities manning the checkpoints on both sides of the Causeway have done a good job in ensuring that the flow of travellers across the border will not be disrupted.

“The Covid-19 cases that have been detected under the VTL-Land initiative show how vigilant the authorities are in keeping any cross-border spread of the virus in check,” he said.

Johor Malay Non-Governmental Organisations Coalition Council president Zaini Atan said the group welcomed the assurance given by the government that the border would not be closed.

“The government must come up with a better formula or way of tackling the Omicron variant instead of imposing another lockdown.

“Businesses here are starting to pick up since the start of the National Recovery Plan and with people using the VTL-Land to travel from Singapore, it will further boost our economy,” he added.

On Friday, when asked whether the Malaysia-Singapore VTL by land and air would continue following the detection of two Omicron cases in Singapore, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said it would carry on.

He said he had reaffirmed this with Singaporean counterpart Ong Ye Kung.

“We will continue to update each other on a daily basis and coordinate our responses accordingly,” he told a press conference.

On Thursday, Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said both countries would need between two weeks and a month to gauge if there was a need for a more appropriate SOP for the VTL-Land following the emergence of Omicron.

In the meantime, the VTL-Land would proceed, he said.

The Health Ministry requires all travellers – using the Malaysia-Singapore VTL by air or land – to carry out a Covid-19 self-test on the third and seventh day after their arrival. Results must be reported through the MySejahtera app.

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