Coronavirus: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur discuss terms for Malaysian returnees

Ccommuters near the Woodlands Train Checkpoint heading to Malaysia on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia and Singapore are discussing new terms for the return of Malaysian citizens from the Republic to their home country, which will be announced as soon as Tuesday (April 7), Malaysian Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Monday (April 6).

Malaysia had earlier said that its citizens would be allowed to return home subject to a swab test and a letter from the Singapore authorities certifying that they were free of the coronavirus.

However, Singapore's Ministry of Health said on Monday that Covid-19 testing is performed, when clinically indicated, for patients and their close contacts.

"There is currently no requirement by the Government of Singapore for foreigners exiting Singapore to be swabbed for non-clinical grounds," the ministry said in response to media queries.

Kuala Lumpur does not impose a similar testing requirement on others entering Malaysia, such as via Kuala Lumpur International Airport, nor does it test foreign workers in the country before they return home.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said at a press briefing on Monday that new terms were being discussed by a joint working group comprising officials from the foreign and human resources ministries of the two countries.

He said that till the changes are finalised, citizens will not be allowed to return.

"I believe that the Foreign Ministry will inform us at the meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) on what are the new conditions agreed upon by Malaysia and Singapore," he said.

"But for now, we won't allow Malaysians in Singapore to return," said Mr Ismail Sabri, adding that there were tens of thousands of Malaysians seeking to make their way back.

Johor has appealed to Singapore to allow Malaysians in the Republic to return home in stages so that it can better manage the influx.

Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said that if the Singapore Government could restrict the number of returnees to between 1,000 and 2,000 each day, it would be of great assistance to the state government.

He said that managing the Covid-19 crisis in the state posed unique challenges, as Johor has two major entry points from Singapore - the Causeway and Second Link - as well as four international ferry terminals.

There are at least 45,000 Malaysians working in Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Friday announced significantly tougher measures to control the pandemic in Singapore, with most workplaces closed from Tuesday and all schools moving to home-based learning from Wednesday.

With input from The Straits Times

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.