Coronavirus: Business slowdown in Johor due to drop in Singapore visitors

People at the link bridge between JB Sentral and City Square Mall near Woodlands checkpoint. PHOTO: ST FILE

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It used to be a perennial problem that no remedial measure seemed to have an effect on the Causeway jam.

But checks over the past two weeks have shown that use of the oldest link between Malaysia and Singapore has fallen to a bare minimum, even during peak hours.

The number of visitors crossing over from Singapore has seen a marked decrease, and vice versa.

The coronavirus scare has certainly changed things at the once jam-packed Causeway.

It was an unbelievable sight of an all clear Causeway at the peak hour of 5pm on Wednesday (Feb 19).

A regular visitor to Singapore, who wanted to be identified as Raj, said he had put off all trips across the Causeway until the coronavirus situation improved.

"I love the shopping and food in Singapore, and go there quite often. But safety is the priority now. I'm not taking any risks, " he said.

The 1,056m-long Causeway that links Johor Baru across the Strait of Johor to the town of Woodlands in Singapore serves as a road and rail link, as well as water piping into Singapore.

It is said to be among the busiest border crossings in the world, with 350,000 travellers daily handled by the immigration authorities of both countries in the Woodlands Checkpoint and Southern Integrated Gateway.

Johor business operators said that the number of customers from across the Causeway had dwindled since last month.

Mr Lim Toh Shin, 40, who owns a 101-year-old banana cake shop in the city centre, said sales had gone down by at least 50 per cent since Chinese New Year.

"Previously, customers could be seen making a beeline in front of my shop almost every day but now we hardly get enough customers to sell cakes made on that day, " he said.

Shop assistant V. Lavanya, 20, said that sales of the textile shop in Johor Baru had seen a 60 per cent decline since two weeks ago.

"The number of customers had declined since early this month. We used to get at least 50 Singaporean customers a week but now we hardly get three," she said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor chapter secretary Yvonne Loh said that the hotel industry had also been losing customers from Singapore since the outbreak.

"Initially, bookings that were cancelled are mostly from China but now a significant number of Singaporeans have also cancelled their holidays here," she said, adding that some 4,695 hotel bookings had been cancelled as of Feb 8.

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