Allow fully vaccinated Malaysians returning from S'pore to quarantine at home, says Johor health official

The move would not only allow them to save money but also spend more time with their families during the home quarantine period, said state health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan.
The move would not only allow them to save money but also spend more time with their families during the home quarantine period, said state health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Johor government wants returning Malaysians who have been fully vaccinated in Singapore to be allowed to do their 14-day compulsory quarantine at home.

State health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said the move would not only allow them to save money but also spend more time with their families during the home quarantine period.

"This pandemic has caused a lot of hardship, especially to families living apart since March last year. We can understand the mental and emotional anguish faced by the thousands of Malaysians in Singapore," Mr Vidyananthan said when visiting the Persada Johor International Convention Centre, a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Johor Baru.

He was accompanying Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad.

Mr Vidyananthan added that allowing fully vaccinated returning Malaysians to do their 14-day compulsory quarantine at home would also help ease the financial burden of those who lost their jobs in Singapore and yet have to fork out additional funds for quarantine charges upon returning home to Johor Baru.

"We are hoping that the model used for those using the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) will be expanded to involve those who have already been vaccinated," he said.

The PCA is a Safe Travel Lane agreed between the governments of Malaysia and Singapore. It supports companies in Malaysia and Singapore by facilitating the movement of workers between both countries.

Mr Vidyananthan said that since the PCA and the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) were introduced, 33,900 people have used those avenues with seven Covid-19 positive cases reported.

Currently, a person returning to Malaysia and going back to Singapore would need to be quarantined for 28 days - 14 days in Malaysia and 14 days in Singapore - at a designated facility.

The cost is about RM2,200 (S$704) in Malaysia and S$2,200 (RM6,862) in Singapore.

Earlier, the PCA required Malaysians to serve only a seven-day home quarantine and undergo a swab test. But since May 13, Malaysia has imposed a strict 14-day quarantine for those entering from Singapore after the country reported the spread of new Covid-19 variants in the community.

The RGL was then suspended.

Mr Vidyananthan said that Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni "will convey the state's decision to the Federal Government. We hope to hear some good news soon".

Asked whether a similar move would be accorded to fully vaccinated Singaporeans visiting their families - as there is a sizeable number in Johor Baru - Mr Vidyananthan said they would start with Malaysians first and see how that works out.

"If it is successful, we can always give feedback for more people who have been vaccinated to enter Malaysia," he said.

On another issue, Mr Vidyananthan said that variants of concern were suspected to be the cause of 13 deaths linked to the Tanjung Agas cluster in Tangkak.

As of last Wednesday, there were 462 Covid-19 cases in the cluster, with about 44.8 per cent comprising workers from a semiconductor factory in the district.

Of the 207 factory workers affected, 155 were local workers while 52 were foreigners, said Mr Vidyananthan.

"The index patient for the cluster was a worker from the factory who started experiencing symptoms such as fever since June 26 but continued working until June 28. The worker tested positive for Covid-19 on July 2," he said.

"On that day, the Tangkak District Health Department conducted an investigation on the factory and, based on contact tracing and screening, several other cases were identified involving workers there."

Mr Vidyananthan said the remaining 255 cases were family members of the workers, adding that the 13 deaths involved people with comorbidities.