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Indonesia, Singapore to continue discussions on reciprocal vaccinated travel lane: Retno Marsudi

Indonesia, Singapore to continue discussions on reciprocal vaccinated travel lane: Retno Marsudi

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan hosted lunch for Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi on Aug 25, 2020. (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and her Singaporean counterpart Dr Vivian Balakrishnan have agreed to continue discussions on safe travels between the two countries, including via a bilateral vaccinated travel lane (VTL).

After a meeting between the ministers on Tuesday (Nov 16), the Indonesian foreign ministry wrote in a statement: “Both parties agreed to continue discussions on VTL arrangements bilaterally (reciprocally).

“The two foreign ministers also discussed details of the implementation of the unilateral VTL granted by Singapore to travelers from Indonesia on a point-to-point basis, namely from Jakarta to Singapore.”

According to the statement, Mdm Marsudi said: "The Singapore foreign minister said that Singapore's unilateral VTL implementation was based on, among other things, trust in the system, the continued improvement in the COVID-19 situation in Indonesia and the higher vaccination rate.”

On Monday, Indonesia logged 221 new COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 4.2 million cases in Indonesia. More than 30 per cent of the country’s population have been fully vaccinated.

In the statement, the Indonesian minister also cited Dr Balakrishnan as saying that in order to maintain public health, Singapore's unilateral VTL implementation would use an assigned flight.

The city state’s unilateral VTL with Indonesia will take effect on Nov 29.

On Monday, Singapore’s Transport Minister S Iswaran said that the VTL with Indonesia is unilateral for now since the latter has remained closed to general travel. 

“Since Oct 14, Indonesia has unilaterally reopened its borders to allow visitors from 19 countries,” said Mr Iswaran. 

“We hope that Indonesia will likewise soon reopen its borders to travellers from Singapore,” he said, adding that there will be two daily designated services between Singapore and Jakarta. This will progressively be increased to four.

Applications for short-term visitors and long-term pass holders from Indonesia will start on Nov 22.

Mdm Marsudi and Dr Balakrishnan also discussed the creation of a safe travel bubble between Singapore and Bintan via ferry, said the statement issued by the Indonesian foreign ministry.

The statement added that the ministers took the opportunity to discuss the plan to organise a Leaders' Retreat between President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.  

They agreed to prepare concrete and beneficial results of the meeting for the two countries, according to the statement. 

During an exclusive interview with CNA last Friday, Mr Widodo said he will discuss with Mr Lee how and when the two countries can reopen borders when they meet later this year.

"We will discuss a travel corridor arrangement which we hope can be opened, but not everywhere in Indonesia,” said Jokowi, as the president is popularly known.

“Maybe, (between) Bintan and Singapore, or Bali and Singapore, Jakarta and Singapore, for example. But again, all these have to be gradual," he stated.  

The two leaders last met in Singapore on October 8, 2019, for the annual meeting traditionally held to foster bilateral relations. They have not had a retreat since due to the pandemic.

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Source: CNA/ks(aw)

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