JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With millions of people on both sides of the Causeway vaccinated against Covid-19, Malaysians working in Singapore are calling for the removal of the quarantine requirement for those who are fully vaccinated as businesses urged the governments to work on recognising the vaccines deployed in their respective countries.
Since Malaysia and Singapore shut their borders to each other on March 18 last year, hundreds of thousands of Malaysians living in Singapore who are stranded have had to endure prolonged separation from their families.
A recent online petition asking for Malaysians in Singapore to be allowed to return home without quarantine has garnered 9,316 signatures as at 10am on Thursday (July 22).
Mr Danny Tay, 43, who started the online petition two weeks ago, said he was surprised to see the petition garnering so many signatures in such a short time.
"Besides the many people working here, there are also those who have lost their jobs and Singaporeans who are married to Malaysians, who have been separated from their loved ones.
"This is very stressful and to ask Malaysians who have lost their jobs for money to pay for their 14-day quarantine in a hotel in Johor Baru is really not fair," the project manager said.
He hoped the Malaysian government would consider doing away with the two-week quarantine for those who are fully vaccinated and replace it with a one-day quarantine until they get their PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test results.
Mr Tay, who has received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in Singapore, said he misses his family, especially his 10-year-old son in Kuala Lumpur.
"I video call them (family) almost daily and try my best to play video games with him online and also do tuition sessions with him twice a week," he added.
Another Malaysian, Ms Nurbayzura Basaruddin, 34, said she was reluctant to return home as she would not just need to fork out more than RM8,000 (S$2,586) in quarantine charges but also spend a total of 28 days in quarantine.
"At least the Malaysian government can be compassionate to us and do away with the 14-day mandatory quarantine for those who have received both doses in Singapore," the fast-food outlet manager who works in Singapore said.
She said she misses her four young children dearly and her youngest son was only 11 months old when she last saw him, and now he is able to talk and run.
"I have already got my first vaccine dose and will get my second dose soon. I hope once I am fully vaccinated, both governments will help ease the quarantine requirements," she added.
She used to commute daily between both countries.
Currently, a person returning to Malaysia and going back to Singapore will need to be quarantined for 28 days (14 days in Malaysia and 14 days in Singapore) at designated facilities.
The cost is about RM2,200 on the Malaysian side and S$2,200 on the Singapore side.
Earlier, Malaysians were using the Periodic Commuting Arrangement that required them to serve only a seven-day home quarantine and undergo a swab test.
However, since May 13, Malaysia imposed a strict 14-day quarantine for those entering from Singapore after the country reported the spread of new Covid-19 variants in the community.
The Reciprocal Green Lane was then suspended.
Among those heavily impacted by the closure of one of the world's busiest land border crossings are businesses in the southern Johor state. Many of the business owners there are eager to see the resumption of the Causeway traffic.
Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar said the Malaysian and Singapore governments should work on an agreement to recognise the types of Covid-19 vaccines used in their respective countries to ensure that workers could travel without hassle when the land border is reopened.
He said Malaysia was vaccinating residents with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines while Singapore used Pfizer, Moderna and Sinovac vaccines.
"What happens to those who have received two doses of AstraZeneca or Moderna? These are issues that need to be addressed so that people do not get stopped at the border," he said.
To date, Malaysia has fully vaccinated about 13 per cent of its population while about 50 per cent of the Singapore population have received the two shots.
Mr Sivakumar called on Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad to take the lead in the push for border reopening with Singapore, especially to those who have been fully vaccinated.
Johor MCA Covid-19 pandemic task force chief Michael Tay said in a separate interview: "Both countries have a high vaccination rate and this is a good time to plan a strategy to ease border restrictions for those who have received both their doses."
Mr Tay said the United States and United Kingdom could be used as models as both nations started easing restrictions following a high level of vaccination among their population.
Mr Tay also urged both Malaysia and Singapore governments to recognise those who are fully vaccinated upon checking the MySejahtera and TraceTogether apps.
"It is also a good time to see if the 14-day mandatory quarantine stay at hotels can be reduced or completely done away with for those fully vaccinated," he said.
Last month, National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Singapore might become the first foreign country to recognise the MySejahtera application as Malaysia's "vaccination passport" in order to allow fully vaccinated Malaysians to enter the island state.
Similarly, MySejahtera may also be accepted for international travel in the future, subject to approval from other governments.