Singapore

1 of only 4 passengers on first VTL bus to Singapore stopped at checkpoint


SINGAPORE – Four people boarded the first bus from Malaysia under the land vaccinated travel lane (VTL) on Monday morning (Nov 29), but only three managed to enter Singapore.

The first bus arrived at Queen Street Terminal at 9.48am, after a delay.

Ms Renee Looi, who was on the first bus, told The Straits Times that one man was unable to complete the journey because he was held up at the Johor Baru Customs.

She said: “He boarded the bus at Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal but when we arrived at the checkpoint, he was brought to another place by an officer.

“We waited for him but in the end, we left without him.”

Ms Looi, 29, made a trip to Johor Baru three weeks ago to visit her father before the new VTL arrangement kicked in. However, she had to first serve a week-long quarantine at a hotel there.

“I was actually planning to come back yesterday, but decided to delay it by a day since they announced the VTL and I wouldn’t have to be quarantined,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Mr Alex Lee, 40, was the sole passenger on the second bus that arrived at 9.51am.

Mr Lee, who works in sales, said his bus departed from Larkin Sentral Bus Terminal in Johor Baru at 7.30am.

“There were delays at the JB customs but I’m not too sure what’s the issue. I waited inside the bus for about 45 minutes, but otherwise, it’s quite smooth,” he added.

Mr Lee, who had not seen his wife and two children since March last year, went to Malaysia about two weeks ago to visit them.

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He said: “My wife has to take care of our kids and there is no one to help her, so I hope to bring them over to Singapore soon. Although I can video-call them, there’s no human touch.”

There was little fanfare at the terminal, as passengers arrived without family or friends receiving them. 

Speaking to reporters at Woodlands Checkpoint, Superintendent Tong Weijie, deputy commander (ground operations) at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), said most of the travellers who arrived were able to clear the automated lanes as they had brought along the necessary documents and have submitted the SG Arrival Card in advance.

Travellers to Singapore are required to submit the SG Arrival Card, which contains health declaration information, within three days before arrival.

“ICA will continue to monitor the ground situation, fine-tune our processes and improve the traveller’s experience,” he said.

Up to 1,440 Singapore citizens, permanent residents and Singapore long-term pass holders can cross the Causeway into the Republic each day on designated bus services.

The land VTL currently prioritises workers in Singapore or Malaysia who have not been able to return home since the land border was shut in March last year.

They will no longer have to serve quarantine upon arrival, unlike those returning home via the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, which requires a seven-day quarantine at designated facilities or hotels upon arrival in Malaysia or Singapore.

Instead, they must test negative in a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or professionally administered antigen rapid test (ART) – done within two days before departure. On arrival, they will also be required to take an ART test. 

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As at 12.40pm, the first bus run by the other bus operator, Transtar Travel, has yet to arrive at Woodlands Temporary Bus Interchange after it was delayed for more than three hours. 

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.



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