KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has asked Singapore to consider allowing Malaysians working there to commute daily between both countries, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday (Jun 26).
Mr Muhyiddin said he spoke to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a telephone conversation discussing the possible reopening of the two countries’ borders.
In a statement on Facebook, he said that authorities on both sides agree that the reopening of borders should be done cautiously and based on certain guidelines.
“We are in agreement that the reopening of our borders should be done carefully according to certain health guidelines and protocols to rejuvenate the economic and tourism sectors, which will greatly benefit both countries,” Mr Muhyiddin said.
He added that Malaysia was also prepared to work with Singapore to ensure that the proposed reciprocal green lane to facilitate movements between the two countries could be finalised soon.
Muhyiddin said the leaders also touched on the Periodical Commuting Arrangement between Malaysia and Singapore which, if implemented, would facilitate cross-border travel for the peoples of the two countries.
“Under this arrangement, residents of both countries can work in the other country for a period of fewer than three months and will be allowed to enter their country of origin when going on leave.
“This proposal is in line with the government’s concern over the fate of Malaysians, especially those working in Singapore and who could not return home because of the tight standard operating procedure (SOP) for quarantine in both countries,” he added.
Muhyiddin said both countries were confident that issues of SOP and health protocols, which were being fine-tuned by the relevant ministers, senior officials and health experts of the two countries, could be worked out soon to support the proposal to reopen borders.
“Any decision on this agreement, however, is subject to the level of preparedness of both countries regarding the aspect of the capacity to implement COVID-19 screening and swab tests,” he said.
“STEP BY STEP APPROACH”
Singapore will likely take a “step by step approach” on reopening its border with Malaysia, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said, in comments that were aired earlier this week.
Speaking to host Diana Ser in an episode of CNA’s In Conversation, he said that reopening borders without measures like COVID-19 tests and contact tracing in place 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 said.
He added that he would “hesitate to put a timeline” on when travel between the two countries would resume, as authorities on both sides of the Causeway have to work out many details, with public health being one key consideration.
Putrajaya had said last week that Singaporeans may be allowed to enter Malaysia without the need to undergo COVID-19 screening and home quarantine, but that there should be a reciprocal arrangement for Malaysians.
In response, Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said any bilateral arrangements on travel would have to include mutually agreed public health protocols in order to safeguard citizens of both countries.