Coronavirus: Cross-border travel talks with Malaysia under way but safety still a priority

A jam-free Causeway in April. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the Singapore authorities are still in the midst of working out details with their Malaysian counterparts to allow travel across the border. ST FILE PHOTO
A jam-free Causeway in April. National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said the Singapore authorities are still in the midst of working out details with their Malaysian counterparts to allow travel across the border. ST FILE PHOTO

Even as Singapore and Malaysia discuss how travel can be safely resumed, it is "quite clear" that they will not return to the pre-pandemic situation of large numbers of commuters "freely" crossing the border each day, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said at a virtual news conference yesterday.

But while Singapore hopes to see a resumption of travel and welcomes travellers, safety remains a key priority, Mr Wong said in response to a question on when and how Malaysians will be allowed to come into Singapore to work.

This comes after Malaysia's Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced yesterday that Malaysians working in Singapore can travel and resume work here once both governments reach a resolution on the matter. Malaysians can undergo Covid-19 screenings before resuming work in Singapore, if that is among the conditions, he added.

Mr Wong said the resumption of travel in a safe way "would mean looking at testing protocols in place on both sides before the travellers can come back and forth".

If not everyone can be tested, then a combination of strategies may need to be deployed, including requiring some groups to serve out a quarantine period upon arrival, he added.

He said the Singapore authorities are still in the midst of working out details with their Malaysian counterparts, including the number of people who will be allowed to travel between the countries and the industries that will be allowed to travel for work.

What is clear is that travel between Singapore and Malaysia will not return to the state it was in before the circuit breaker, or before Covid-19 hit, the minister stressed.

"We are not talking about large volumes, daily commuters coming in and out freely... We are talking about resumption of travel but in a controlled manner and in a safe manner for both sides, and that is in our mutual interest."

 
 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2020, with the headline 'Cross-border travel talks with Malaysia under way but safety still a priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe