Singapore delivered 100,620 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to its neighbour, the Malaysian state of Johor, on Dec. 2, as Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called on the Sultan of Johor to affirm support for the state’s effort to combat COVID-19.
The vaccine contribution came on top of the 20,000 Sinovac doses donated to Johor in July to facilitate the state’s earlier target to vaccinate 90 percent of its adult population by October.
While Johor ranks fourth in vaccination rates among Malaysia’s states, with close to 80 percent of its 3.5 million population fully vaccinated, it surpasses the national rate of 77 percent.
Minister Balakrishnan also met Johor chief minister Hasni Mohammad and discussed the Singapore-Malaysia land vaccinated travel lanes (VTL-Land) launched on Nov. 29. The VTL has seen over 3,200 travellers cross the Causeway between the two states, including a COVID-19 case detected via an on-arrival Antigen Rapid Test conducted at the entry point.
The Singapore-Malaysia VTL currently allows 1,440 citizens, permanent residents, or long-term pass holders quarantine-free entry into each country on designated buses daily. Both countries aim to expand VTL-Land to include general travellers from mid-December, said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
According to Malaysia’s health ministry, travellers using the Singapore-Malaysia VTL by air or land must perform a mandatory COVID-19 self-test on the third and seventh day after arrival as an added precaution.
Malaysia, which has recorded 2.6 million COVID-19 cases, is keeping a close eye on the Omicron variant. The country is also monitoring news of two imported Omicron cases detected in Singapore. Both cases had tested negative for their COVID-19 pre-departure tests before arriving from Johannesburg on Dec. 1.
In a report by The Star, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said future discussions on VTLs with neighbouring Indonesia, Thailand, and Brunei would centre around the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The country recently banned travellers from countries that have reported the Omicron variant, such as South Africa and Zimbabwe. It also considered extending the ban to nations where the variant has been detected, such as Britain and the Netherlands.