Singapore will gradually reopen its borders with Malaysia, with safety and precautionary measures in place. However, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is “hesitant to put a timeline” on when travel can resume because many details, especially pertaining to safeguarding the public health of Singapore, have yet to be ironed out.
“We have to work out those protocols and to make sure those protocols are effective on both sides of the Causeway. So just give us a few, I would say, days to weeks,” said Mr Balakrishnan in a televised interview on Tuesday (23 June).
“I do not see it possible to have a big bang complete, no holds barred, no restrictions, no tests (approach) – I think that would be unwise. But we can open up in steps, have the appropriate measures to test people, contact trace people because when you open up, your risk (of infection) will inevitably increase,” he added.
However, Mr Balakrishnan assured that movement did not completely freeze during the pandemic. Supply chains of goods between Malaysia and Singapore continued to flow, among other things.
“Communications continued, supplies continued, essential medical supplies continued. People flow, repatriation, consular services continued and we cooperated very effectively,” he noted.
The decision on which other countries Singapore would extend these arrangements to depends on “strong diplomatic ties, strong business and economic interests, and public health systems (that) are familiar” to Singapore.
“There will be ups and downs, not only in Singapore, but in other countries as well. So these arrangements have to be flexible enough to deal with changing circumstances. But the key thing is communication, trust, openness, (and) reliability,” Mr Balakrishnan remarked, adding that these arrangements will have to be in place for at least the next 12 to 18 months.
“I have to tell you that we have to be very, very careful that as we open, we don’t reopen Pandora’s box and the virus gets out on a rampage again. It’s a very delicate operation,” he cautioned.