Malaysia PM Ismail Sabri to make first official visit to Singapore on Monday, witness land VTL launch
SINGAPORE: Malaysia Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will make his first official visit to Singapore on Monday (Nov 29) and jointly witness the launch of the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) at the Causeway that links both countries.
It will be the first official visit by a Malaysia prime minister to Singapore in more than three years, since former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad visited in November 2018 and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted global travel.
Mr Ismail Sabri will witness the VTL launch with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Sunday, calling the launch a “significant step towards the restoration of bilateral and regional connectivity”.
Singapore will also start an air VTL with Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday, with six airlines providing designated VTL flights.
Following the launch, Mr Ismail Sabri will attend a welcome ceremony at the Istana, call on President Halimah Yacob and meet Mr Lee.
Mr Lee will host an official lunch in honour of Mr Ismail Sabri, MFA said, adding that the Malaysia prime minister will have a new orchid hybrid named after him during a ceremony at the Istana.
Mr Ismail Sabri will be accompanied by Senior Minister of International Trade and Industry Mohamed Azmin Ali, Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Transport Wee Ka Siong, Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad, and senior officials.
Travellers on the land VTL must use designated bus services and have to be citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders of the country they are entering.
The requirement gives priority to those working in either country and hoping to reunite with their families back home after months of separation.
Some experienced long waits and ticketing issues when bus bookings opened at 8am on Thursday, although the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said on Thursday night that tickets were still available for the first 30 days of travel.
On Sunday, MTI announced that travellers entering Singapore from Malaysia through the land VTL must take an additional on-arrival antigen rapid test (ART) to reduce the risk of spreading the new B.1.1.529 coronavirus variant to Singapore.
Previously, these travellers only needed to produce a negative ART or polymerase chain reaction test within two days before departure for Singapore.
Countries have raced to contain the new variant, named Omicron, amid reports it is potentially more dangerous than the current dominant Delta variant that has fuelled relentless waves of infection worldwide.
Mr Lee said at the People’s Action Party convention on Sunday that Singapore is tracking the Omicron variant very closely and could be forced to “take a few steps back again” in the fight against COVID-19.