Singapore and Malaysia are in the midst of discussing safety measures that will be implemented before reopening borders for individuals to travel between the two countries.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (8 June) that measures, safeguards, and precautions have to be in place first before travel can resume between Singapore and Malaysia.
However, it is “quite clear” that things will not return to the pre-pandemic time where large number of people are allowed to travel “freely” crossing the border on a daily basis, said Mr Wong at a virtual press conference.
This was said after Malaysia’s Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Monday that Malaysians working in Singapore can begin travelling and resume work here after both governments reach a conclusion on the matter. He added that Malaysians can go through COVID-19 screenings first before going back to work in Singapore, if that is among the conditions.
“The same principle will apply…we will welcome these travellers. We want to see the resumption of travel, but it has to be done in a safe way. And that would mean looking at testing protocols in place on both sides,” Mr Wong stated.
He continued that before the border reopens, testing may have to be done, a quarantine period may have to be imposed, or a combination of both measures will be implemented.
“Measures, safeguards, and precautions have to be put in place to ensure the resumption of safe travel between Singapore and Malaysia, so we are discussing all these with our Malaysian counterparts, (including) exactly how many people, what kinds of protocols will be put in place and which industries (will be involved),” Mr Wong noted.
He reiterated that the volume of commuters travelling will not be as high as pre-pandemic times.
The Minister added that the Singapore authorities are still in talks with their Malaysian counterparts in working out the details, including the number of commuters who will be allowed to cross the border and the industries that will be allowed to travel for work.
“It is not going to be back to where we were before the circuit breaker or before COVID-19 hit us…We are talking about resumption of travel, but in a controlled manner and in a safe manner for both sides. That’s in our mutual interest,” he explained.
Mixed reactions from netizens on reopening borders
Over on social media, online users voiced mixed reactions on the decision to reopen the borders between Singapore and Malaysia.
Penning their thoughts in the Facebook page of The Straits Times, some questioned the need to reopen the borders so soon. This is because they noted that some commuters may be asymptomatic and this could lead to a jump in the number of COVID-19 cases in both countries.
One user said that Malaysia should ensure that all of its citizens who plan to cross the border be tested for COVID-19 first.
However, a bunch of online users urged the Government to open the border as people need to return back to work and further get the economy up and running.
On the other hand, one user questioned the need to quarantine Singaporeans on both ends as some of them reside in Johor Bharu but work in Singapore. By keeping them in quarantine for 14 days in Malaysia and another 14 days in Singapore, this will result to lost in working days for them.
As such, the user said if Malaysians can travel back and forth without the need to be quarantined, then Singaporeans living in Johor Bharu should also be given the same privilege.
Some netizens offered a number of suggestions to avoid a second wave in Singapore. The suggestions include limitation on frequencies of travel, separation of commuters to two groups where some go through temperature checks while others undergo swab test, as well as restriction to “one time two way travel in one week”.