SINGAPORE: Authorities are working to open the land border between Singapore and Malaysia by the end of November, but the details are still being worked out, said Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong on Saturday (Nov 20).
In response to a reporter's question at a virtual press conference, Mr Gan, who co-chairs the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, said that Singapore and Malaysia authorities are "working very closely together" to finalise the operational details.
On Thursday, Malaysian media reported Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad saying that the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia will open on Nov 29, the same day as the air VTL between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
"I'm optimistic that we will be able to ... launch this VTL for land round about the end of this month, close to the launch of the VTL for air. It is also possible that we may be able to do so on the same day," Mr Gan said, adding that he hopes to share more details next week.
However, he said that things are not likely to return to pre-pandemic days when hundreds of thousands of people crossed between Singapore and Johor Bahru each day.
"We will start with a smaller number, with a certain limit quota," he said.
"The priority is really to allow families who have been separated for a long time since the start of COVID-19 ... to re-unite with their family members."
He added that the first phase of the VTL for land will focus on this group of people before expanding the scope for more people to travel.
"I think it is also important for us to ensure that we are able to do so in a safe way, through tests and so on to make sure that this VTL land will continue to be able to allow citizens and permanent residents from both sides and residents on both sides to travel safely," he said.
Responding to another question from a reporter on Singapore's border measures in general, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said that the measures will continue to be reviewed and fine-tuned.
He said that Singapore looks at a broad range of indicators to classify countries according to their risk status, and makes periodic updates to its travel system every fortnight.
Mr Wong added that Singapore now has a relatively high infection rate compared to many other countries.
Increasingly, the focus will not just be on infection rate alone but to watch against new variants of concern, he added.
"As we move towards a more endemic situation, as will other countries, our focus is not simply on infection rate alone, but really to watch against new variants, especially variants of concern that may become more that may be more resistant to the vaccines."