Malaysia to continue talks on reopening border with S'pore despite Covid-19 spike: Minister

The border between Singapore and Malaysia has been closed to daily commuters since March 18, when Malaysia imposed a movement control order. PHOTO: ST FILE

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government will continue to discuss with Singapore the reopening of the border, although Malaysia has been seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases in recent days.

"The Economic Action Council always discuss this matter during weekly meetings. In the latest meeting, the topic was the tourism sector, which is affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic and border closure," said de facto Economic Affairs Minister Mustapha Mohamad.

"The country lost about half of foreign tourists and about 50 per cent of them came from Singapore, so we understand how the sector is affected," he added.

Johor's state ministers have been pushing the Malaysian government to reopen the two land links between the two countries, as many Johoreans work in Singapore and the Johor economy also depends on the influx of visitors from the south.

Datuk Seri Mustapha, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Economy), said discussion with Singapore is headed by Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

"We truly understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has many risks and caused problems but there must be a balance between health and economic issues," Mr Mustapha told reporters. "We are hopeful that when the time comes, the border with Singapore will be opened even if it is in stages, as it would help recover Johor's economy," he added.

Johor's Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said late last month that the state government is not capable of finding employment for 100,000 Malaysians who may lose their jobs because of the prolonged border closure.

The borders have been closed to daily commuters since March 18, when Malaysia imposed a movement control order because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Datuk Hasni said Johor's unemployment rate was already at a record high of 18 per cent, with 35,000 people jobless.

The two countries partly reopened their border on Aug 17 under the Reciprocal Green Lane and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) schemes.

Under the PCA, Malaysians and Singaporeans on a long-term social visit pass are allowed to travel across the border for two weeks to a month if they have stayed in the country of their employment for the past three months.

Under the RGL scheme, those residing in Singapore are allowed to enter Malaysia for a maximum 14-day stay for official or business purposes.

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