Coronavirus outbreak

10,000 Malaysian workers matched with temporary housing: Josephine Teo

Commuters walking towards the Malaysian checkpoint in Johor Baru on March 17, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

More than 10,000 Malaysians working in Singapore and affected by Malaysia's travel ban starting today found accommodation in Singapore within just a few hours yesterday, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

Malaysia on Monday announced a movement control order that starts today and will last till March 31.

Among other things, all Malaysians will be barred from travelling abroad and there will also be a ban on all foreign tourists and visitors to the country.

The Singapore Government has given assurances that all Malaysian workers who choose to remain in Singapore will have a place to stay, and that it is providing financial help to employers.

About 100,000 Malaysians working here have no living arrangements in Singapore.

They include some 1,000 nurses and other healthcare workers who make the daily commute from across the Causeway to their workplaces here.

"In the few hours that we've been (working with them), we've been able to match more than 10,000 so far in the few short hours we had, so we're confident that those affected will be able to find suitable accommodation by the end of the night," said Mrs Teo yesterday, speaking at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force on the Covid-19 virus.

"It may take some time because employers and workers have preferences and different budgets, so we need time to match them," she said.

More than 300,000 people, many of them Malaysians working in Singapore, use the land checkpoints between the two countries daily.

Employers have mostly been able to find accommodation options on their own, but those who have had difficulty doing so - numbering around several hundred - have approached the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Mrs Teo added.

MOM said yesterday that it is currently working with tripartite partners to assist affected companies and help them find suitable accommodation.

There are a number of housing options: Workers can also be encouraged to stay with relatives, friends or colleagues. If this is not feasible, employers can consider hotels and dormitories.

A third option is rental, with the authorities rolling out a plan to help with costs, to the tune of $50 a worker per night for 14 nights.

"Our objective is to minimise any impact on the delivery of services for our people," MOM said.

"We advise employers to assess their manpower needs carefully and make a considered decision as to whether they need their affected workers to remain in Singapore," said MOM.

"In providing assistance, we will prioritise the needs of firms that provide essential services such as healthcare, security, cleaning, waste management, facilities management, logistics and transport."

Lim Min Zhang and Cheryl Teh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2020, with the headline 10,000 Malaysian workers matched with temporary housing: Josephine Teo. Subscribe