askST: What do Malaysia's lockdown and Singapore's new travel restrictions mean for me?

Malaysia's two-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus kicked in on March 18 and will run until March 31, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - New developments for the Covid-19 situation have been coming thick and fast over the past few days, with Malaysia deciding to impose a lockdown and fresh travel restrictions being put in place by Singapore. Reporter Lester Wong explains what these developments mean for Singaporeans.

Q: What does the Malaysian lockdown involve?

A: Malaysia's two-week lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus kicked in on Wednesday (March 18) and will run until March 31. During this period, Malaysian citizens are barred from travelling overseas and foreign visitors will not be allowed into the country.

Public gatherings are banned, along with all religious, sporting, social and cultural events. Schools, universities and non-essential businesses remain closed.

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Monday that essential services such as food supply, banking, healthcare, transport and security will continue to operate.

Grocery stores, supermarkets and pharmacies have also stayed open.

Malaysia has shut its side of the Causeway and Second Link, although some exemptions have been made.

Q: Can Singaporeans residing in Malaysia come back to Singapore?

A: Yes. The Malaysian lockdown only applies to Malaysian citizens. However, those who return to Singapore after 11.59pm on Friday will have to serve 14 days of self-isolation.

Q: Are there any exemptions that can continue to travel between Singapore and Malaysia?

A: Yes. Delivery workers on the many trucks making trips across the Causeway with supplies of fresh food, pharmaceuticals and infant diapers are allowed through the checkpoints.

"You can't expect them to drive through and then tell them to stay at home for 14 days," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Wednesday, referring to the delivery drivers.

More exemptions could be announced soon, with discussions ongoing between the two governments.

Mr Wong said that given the "very unique nature" of the Causeway, Singapore needs closer bilateral discussions with Malaysia to work out exceptions and facilitate the safe movement of people, goods and services.

On Thursday, Malaysia's Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the travel ban could be temporarily lifted for citizens who commute to Singapore for work if they can be housed here.

Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad said on Wednesday that the Johor state government hopes to reopen the border with Singapore within the next few days.

"We are coming up with a mitigation plan during this Covid-19 outbreak," said Datuk Hasni.

"Among the categories exempted are those with work passes by Malaysia or Singapore, students studying in Singapore, those with specialised skills, businessmen, those involved in logistics and others that would be announced soon."

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