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About 100,000 people have entered Singapore from Malaysia via land and air VTLs


SINGAPORE - About 100,000 people have entered Singapore from Malaysia under a quarantine-free travel scheme that started on Nov 29.

Of these, about 55,000 people have entered via the Causeway under the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL), and some 44,000 people have entered via the VTL for air travellers from Malaysia.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that as at Tuesday (Jan 18), about 43,000 of the land VTL travellers had entered after the scheme was expanded on Dec 20. The expansion had allowed Singapore citizens to enter Malaysia, and Malaysia citizens to enter Singapore.

A spokesman also said MTI will temporarily reduce the land VTL capacity and ticket sales by 50 per cent from Friday, as announced last month.

She added: "We will continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust the VTL (land) capacity, taking into account the public health situation in both countries and globally."

The number of travellers allowed to cross the Causeway was temporarily halved amid concerns over the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. The move meant that there will be a maximum of 48 buses daily ferrying about 2,000 passengers between Singapore and Malaysia.

A similar capacity cut was also introduced for all air VTLs, along with stricter testing requirements.

The two designated bus operators for the land VTL, Transtar Travel and Causeway Link, reported brisk sales, even before the cut in quotas.

Competition for tickets has heated up further since, with all tickets for the land VTL sold out till Feb 28.

Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said earlier this month that both countries will re-evaluate the current risks before deciding whether to proceed with the 50 per cent reduction in quota.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that between Nov 29 and Tuesday, 44,056 travellers entered Singapore from Malaysia under the air VTL between the two countries.

These travellers are made up of 19,645 short-term visitors and long-term pass holders, 21,661 Singapore citizens and permanent residents, and 2,750 children aged 12 years and below.

Singapore Airlines (SIA), which is one of six carriers offering quarantine-free flights between both countries, said it continues to see high demand for its VTL flights.

But a spokesman said SIA is unable to disclose specific figures owing to commercial sensitivity. It said it will continue to adjust its capacity in response to travel demand patterns and passenger arrival caps.

The VTL scheme has helped to support a recovery in Singapore's air hub, even though numbers remain a far cry from before the pandemic.

For instance, the start of a VTL with South Korea in mid-November has allowed about 1,600 travellers from the country to enter Singapore.

Passenger traffic through Changi Airport in December also reached about 15 per cent of the levels before the pandemic, on the back of the holiday season and the expansion of VTLs.

By Toh Ting Wei

Published : January 21, 2022

By : The Straits Times