Coronavirus: Health screenings at both sides of the Causeway causes gridlock

Travellers arriving by bus from Malaysia go through a mass fever screening system at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Feb 11, 2020.
Travellers arriving by bus from Malaysia go through a mass fever screening system at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Feb 11, 2020.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The usual traffic congestion at the Causeway has worsened due to the health screening at the entry points of both Johor and Singapore as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Frequent travellers passing through the Causeway have expressed their frustration over the congestion, which has gotten from bad to worse during peak hours, especially on Fridays and weekends.

Singaporean policeman Abdul Haniff Abdul Hamid, 38, who was passing through the Causeway to enter Johor at about 1pm on Friday (Feb 14) said that he noticed traffic started to build up at about noon.

"The Causeway would normally still be empty at that time and will only start to get congested at around 3pm on Friday," he said.

Another traveller, Malaysian S.Sathia, 36, who works as a security officer in Singapore, said that temperature screening on those entering Malaysia started a few days back.

"After the temperature checks started, the traffic seems to be slower than usual.

"Previously you would only see three or four cars queuing up to enter Johor at 6am, but now I can see a lot more than that number," he said.

Meanwhile, cafe assistant Asilah Manof, 27, said that while the congestion was bad, it was something that many frequent travellers were used to.

"The traffic on the Causeway was pretty bad today but it is normal for it to be congested as it is a Friday.

"Many people will be entering Johor to spend the weekends on Friday," she said, adding that she expects it to be far worse this weekend.

She added that the temperature checks have also contributed to the congestion here.

Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Lorry Operators Association secretary-general Alvin Choong questioned if the Singapore government would quarantine lorry drivers who register a high temperature reading while travelling back to Malaysia

"Obviously there are a lot of lorry drivers now getting very worried because if they go into Singapore and are detected with (high) temperature, I don't know if the government will hold them back for quarantine.

"That's why right now it is a very uncomfortable situation," he said.

Mr Choong said the majority of the lorry drivers mainly deliver food items to Singapore, adding that they would also carry cargo back from the Singapore port.

The Federation of Livestock Farmers' Associations of Malaysia adviser, Datuk Jeffrey Ng, said so far it has not seen any differences in the delivery of goods into Singapore by the authorities.

"They (the Singapore government) have not sent out any new instructions to us. So, if there is no new instruction, it should be status quo.

"Usually if there are any changes, Singapore will inform us early. The whole thing about this coronavirus is that it is human to human, and up till now, Singapore's status is only yellow to orange (alert status). They are not sealing their city or town, so I think everything is still normal," he said.

Singapore raised its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from yellow to orange last Friday, amid indications that the coronavirus known as Covid-19 was spreading in the community.

In the colour coding system, yellow refers either to a mild infection, or a severe infection that is not spreading here, but about which the community needs to be careful.

Orange means the disease is severe with transmission, but is generally contained, and has moderate to high public health impact.

Singapore has so far seen 67 people being infected with the virus while Malaysia has 21 confirmed cases.