Coronavirus: Malaysians working, studying in Singapore can't commute from March 18

Some 300,000 people move across the land crossings at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints alone on a daily basis. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Malaysians who travel to Singapore on a near daily basis for work or study will not be able to do so when a movement restriction order comes into effect on Wednesday (March 18), according to a media statement issued by the National Security Council on Tuesday.

The restrictions on movements announced on Monday night had raised the question of whether those who frequently commuted to Singapore would be exempted from the measures.

The council on Tuesday clarified that the Movement Control Order would apply to all individuals within the country, regardless of whether they worked outside of the country, according to an answer provided in a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) released by the council.

"Any individual who works in a neighbouring country but lives in Malaysia will not be allowed to travel in and out of the country and should inform their employers of this matter," the statement said.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday announced measures to control the movement of residents nationwide to tackle the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the order effective from March 18 to 31, travel will be restricted, with Malaysian citizens barred from travelling overseas and tourists denied entry into the country.

Some 300,000 people move across the land crossings at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints alone on a daily basis, according to Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

The order also includes a ban on mass gatherings, including all religious, sporting, social and cultural events. Houses of worship and businesses are to close, but supermarkets, markets, mini-markets and convenience stores will remain open.

All schools, universities and businesses will be shuttered but those providing essential services will continue to operate during the two-week period. These essential services include utilities, transport, banking, healthcare and security.

As of Tuesday, there have been 566 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 disease, according to the pandemic tracking site Worldometer.

Mr Wesley Chan, a Malaysian who toils the night shift as a storeman at Changi Airport, told The Straits Times he would be willing to move to Singapore to avoid the movement restriction, as long as he could keep his job.

"Put simply, if I don't move to Singapore for now, it will mean I won't earn any money, " said the 35-year-old Sarawakian who has been commuting from his home in Larkin, a suburb in Johor Bahru, to Singapore for work.

"But now, even if I want to move to Singapore, I am not sure I can find a room to rent in such a short time. I only have today (March 17 to look for accommodation), it can't go beyond today. But it's good I still have a job."

A motorcyclist near Woodlands checkpoint is seen carrying luggage, on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Mr Cheng Yu Chian, 27, who has been commuting from his home in Taman Pelangi to Tuas, said he is putting up at a colleague's place until the restrictions expire but laments that his expenses will increase due to the higher cost of living here compared to Malaysia.

Nevertheless, the quantity surveyor can see why the decision to close borders was made.

"I felt shock about it at the beginning, but after calming down, I feel that the Malaysia government did the right thing, as this is the way to prevent more and more people from getting infected by Covid-19," said Mr Cheng.

Ms Sherlyn Cher, who has been working at a manufacturing plant in Ang Mo Kio for three years, said she felt lucky her company would be providing accommodation at a hostel for her.

The 40-year-old said: "It's not the worst yet. At least my company has made arrangements for now. I can stay in Singapore, but just temporarily."

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