Priority lane among netizens’ suggestions to ICA to solve livestock delay issue, following deaths of thousands of chickens at Tuas checkpoint

Thousands of chickens died last week due to delays at the Tuas checkpoint while they were being transported from Malaysia to Singapore.

Poultry importers told The Straits Times that the deaths were caused by heat and crammed conditions in the vehicle they were transported.

While cargo drivers had been experiencing delays since Monday last week, traffic congestion at the checkpoint worsened on Wednesday and Thursday, said importers.

Oh Wei Chiat, chief operating officer at Boong Poultry said he has about four to five trucks of chickens coming into Singapore from Johor almost every day.

He also said around 200 to 300 chickens, or six to 10 per cent, of the chickens in each truck would not survive the journey.

Mr Oh mentioned that one of the reason was the heat and the limited space the chickens were trapped in for so long. “Normally, it takes two to three hours to reach the checkpoint, followed by 12 hours stuck in the congestion. They are usually given any food drink before being transported”, he added.

“Around 2,000 chickens died after a delay between nine and 11 hours at the checkpoint on the two days”, said Mr Johnson Toh, the company director of poultry importer Toh Thye San Farm.

Mr Ong Kian Sun, the chairman of Singapore’s Poultry Merchant’s Association, said even with the delays shortened, they will have to wait for next week to be certain if the situation is improving.

Mr Oh said he changed his delivery schedules to guarantee a better survival rate for his chickens.

He also mentioned that they will start queuing at the checkpoint from midnight so that the weather would not be insufferable for the chickens, as opposed to their normal shift in the morning.

In a joint statement from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Singapore Food Agency, the authorities were aware of the congestion experienced by cargo drivers at the Tuas checkpoint.

“A combination of a few factors were the result of the delays”, they added.

“Due to the return of cargo volume to pre-Covid levels and with the continued closure of Malaysia’s Bangunan Sultan Iskandar from 7pm to 7am, along with the upcoming Lunar New Year, the overall cargo volume is now more concentrated only specific times of the day, resulting to traffic bunching.”

Additional factor is the technical issue of the COVID-19 testing service on Wednesday (27 Jan).

Since 22 Jan, all cargo drivers who are entering Singapore at land checkpoints are required to undergo a COVID-19 antigen rapid test (ART) and anyone with a positive result is not allowed to enter.

From this, all test results had to be manually verified because of the technical issues, adding to the clearance time.

“After these issues have been addressed, additional steps were taken”, the statement added.

Truckers told Malaysian news outlet The Star that they had hope for both Malaysia and Singapore governments to extend their operating hours at the Causeway.

“The Causeway operates from 7am to 7pm, resulting in 12 hours, while the Second Link, opens everyday for 24 hours,” said Johor Trucking Association president, Novan Hing, on Friday (29 Jan).

When the traffic volume was reduced as a result of Malaysia’s movement control order and Singapore’s circuit breaker, the hours were reduced as well in April last year.

Commenting on The Straits Times’ Facebook post, netizens criticised both the importers and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for the delay.

One commenter suggested that cargo drivers could get tested for COVID-19 before departing from Singapore to reduce congestion as a result of testing at checkpoints.

Other commenters suggested a special priority lane for fast clearance of the livestock.

One netizen suggested setting up an abattoir near the checkpoint on the Malaysian side of the Causeway.

On the other hand, there were some comments questioned the silence of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and other animal rights groups on this issue.

Meanwhile, several commenters were curious about how the dead chickens were dealt with after the incident.

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