KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The government should expand its vaccine distribution capacity beyond the Klang Valley to other major cities across the country, including those in Johor, to speed up the reopening of economic sectors, said Johor Bahru Member of Parliament Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir on Wednesday (28 July).
“Previously, it was promised (that the border restrictions will be lifted) at the end of last year. But we know this was unsuccessful as the number of cases remain high,” the Pakatan Harapan politician told Parliament on the third day of a special sitting in the Dewan Rakyat here.
Touching on why the major cities must be urgently reopened, Akmal said: “If the concept of a travel bubble from a tourism standpoint can be mooted for these cities, the same can be done for economic reasons, including between Johor Bahru and Singapore.”
Akmal added that the Johor Bahru-Singapore borders have been shut for a long time, and many families on both ends of the Causeway have been separated for over a year as a result.
“They are unable to come and go back, because they have to be quarantined for two weeks when they enter Johor Bahru. When they enter Singapore, (they) have to (undergo) quarantine for another two weeks,” he said.
Referencing Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s earlier assurance that flexibility in travel and movement will be given to those who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Akmal asked the government to include Johor in Operation Surge Capacity, which currently only targets Kuala Lumpur and Selangor where cases are among the highest in the country.
This is particularly given Johor’s position as one of the entry and exit points into and from Peninsular Malaysia.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV), helmed by co-chair and coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin, said that Operation Surge Capacity saw 238,518 jabs out of the total 553,871 shots administered on Monday.
As of Monday, a total of 18,393,347 jabs have been given out across the country.
Earlier this year, Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said that a new standard operating procedure (SOP) for a travel bubble between Johor and Singapore was in the works in the process of pushing for the reopening of land border checkpoints.
Part of the new SOP, he said in April, 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.