A new standard operating procedure (SOP) for a travel bubble between Johor and Singapore is part of the former’s efforts to materialise the reopening of land border checkpoints in the near future.
Part of the new SOP, said Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, will entail vaccinating 100,000 workers heading to Singapore and requiring them to follow a fixed route to and from their workplace.
The workers will also be prohibited from travelling to other parts of the island.
“We want to have a mechanism to control the movement of our people. That means they travel from Point A to Point B, similar to our lorry drivers and their co-drivers who have to commute daily to a specific destination (in Singapore) to send their goods,” he said.
Hasni reiterated that the Johor-Singapore border closure has made a severe dent in the southern Malaysian state’s economy after a number of businesses in Johor had to be shut down due to the effects of the pandemic.
On Monday, Hasni was reported as saying that the Johor state government “will continue to push for the reopening of the border in June“.
“Once we have presented the SOP for Malaysian workers to commute to the republic, I am confident Singapore will agree to the reopening,” he added.
Netizens wary of possible reopening as M’sia daily cases remain high
Commenters on The Straits Times’ Facebook post on the matter, however, expressed apprehension regarding Johor’s SOP proposal and its state government’s persistence in pushing for border restrictions to be lifted.
“Better wait awhile more, Malaysia cases still not in the single digit yet,” said one commenter.
Another stressed that vaccination does not necessarily mean travellers will be free of COVID-19.
Even if the borders are reopened between Johor and Singapore, it is unlikely that people in Singapore would visit Johor due to the high daily toll of positive COVID-19 cases at present.
One commenter urged against overwhelming Singapore’s medical team unnecessarily and exposing the public to “a high risk” of COVID-19 cases rising in the city-state.
One commenter said that reopening the land borders would help Malaysians coming into Singapore to work “but not the other way round”.
“Good for small business here who are short of workers,” they said.
One commenter, however, said that Singapore “should trial travel bubbles first with Malaysia”.
“They’ll discuss reopening the borders in 2023. Don’t worry unnecessarily guys,” they said.
Previously, Malaysian daily The Star reported Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as saying on 12 Apr that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will discuss the reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong during Muhyiddin’s visit to the city-state on 4 May.
Hishammuddin said he will “make sure that this is in the agenda to be discussed” between the two leaders when they meet.
He stressed that Malaysia must seek Singapore’s approval on the opening of the borders, even if the Johor state government is pushing for its full opening within the next two months.
“The discussion process is still ongoing. Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan recently visited our country and we briefly discussed the matter,” he noted.
Dr Balakrishnan met Hishammuddin in Malaysia on 23 Mar, during which both countries expressed commitment to “progressively restore” cross-border travel for other groups of travellers, in addition to the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA).
Many netizens expressed their objection against reopening borders between the two countries now, given the high number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia.
Some netizens also pointed out that the number of imported COVID-19 cases in Singapore is still on the increase.
One commenter even suggested waiting one or two more years to lift border controls, as doing so would be safer for both countries, saying: “We can’t afford another lockdown.”