JOHOR BARU: The Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Malaysia and Singapore is crucial for the economic recovery of the state, and should be resumed as scheduled on Jan 21, say business groups here.
Johor Indian Petty Traders and Small Business Association chairman D. Ravindran said the VTL-Land must resume before Chinese New Year for the survival of businesses here.
"We really hope that both countries will agree to lift the suspension on the VTL-Land, especially with Chinese New Year drawing closer.
"Chinese New Year is a very important time for businesses here as we expect to see more people from Singapore and Malaysians working there visiting Johor during the festival.
"We expect to see a significant growth in our economy during and after the period.
"However, this anticipated growth will not be realised if ticket sales for the VTL-Land do not resume," he said.
On the reduction in the total number of ticket sales by half, Ravindran said while it is not ideal, this is still preferable to a complete freeze.
"The 50% reduction may be necessary for both countries to control the spread of Covid-19, especially with the Omicron variant surfacing," he said.
Echoing the same sentiment was Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association secretary Hussein Ibrahim, who added that businesses in the state have started to see encouraging improvements during the implementation of the VTL for close to about one month last year.
"When the VTL took effect on Nov 29 last year, we saw Johor, particularly Johor Baru, coming back to life.
"The change was apparent, especially when we started having Singaporeans coming back to visit the state.
"The sudden freeze on the VTL-Land is disappointing and we hope that it will resume without further delay," he said.
Meanwhile, Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said business owners would be disappointed if the number of daily ticket sales were substantially reduced.
"Business momentum has only just started to pick up. They (business owners) will be disappointed if the number of tickets are to be halved, especially since there is still room to increase the previous daily capacity under strict standard operating procedure.
"On top of that, many Malaysian families are also hopeful that the authorities will restart the VTL-Land and that the daily capacity will be increased eventually," he said.
Teh also hopes that the two governments will consider expanding the VTL initiative to private cars, which are seen as a safer alternative than buses.
"Previously, the maximum daily number of VTL tickets of 1,440 could be snapped up within 30 minutes or even shorter due to high demand," he said.
Last month, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the fate of the VTL between Malaysia and Singapore would be determined within 48 hours leading up to Jan 21.
Both governments kicked off the VTL-Air and VTL-Land travel initiative for fully-vaccinated individuals on Nov 29 so that travellers could enjoy quarantine-free travel between the countries.
The arrangement, however, was suspended effective last Dec 23 until Jan 20 following the city state's decision to freeze cross-border travel due to the rising Covid-19 cases there.
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