Malaysians rush home to avoid quarantine in designated facilities

Pictures widely shared on social media sites show people queueing to cross the Causeway to Malaysia on July 23, 2020. PHOTO: MALAYSIA-SINGAPORE BORDER CROSSINGS/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Mrs Toh Siew Choo had planned to return to her home in Johor Baru on Sunday (July 26).

The 53-year-old, who has been working as a nanny in Singapore, has not seen her family for more than six months.

But like many other Malaysians in Singapore, Mrs Toh quickly changed her plans after the Malaysian government announced this week that Malaysians returning from Friday will have to serve a 14-day quarantine period at hotels or quarantine centres.

They will also have to bear the full cost of the stay.

Mrs Toh said: "I have been wanting to go back, as I miss my family. I would usually have visited them every one or two months.

"I decided to go back earlier so that I can spend more time with them instead of staying at a facility outside."

Malaysians who return by Thursday will still have to serve quarantine, but can do so at home, provided they test negative for Covid-19 upon arrival.

Several other Malaysians who spoke to The Straits Times outside the Woodlands Checkpoint on Thursday afternoon said they wanted to avoid getting quarantined at an external facility.

They had heard that the 14-day stay would cost them about RM150 (S$49) daily.

Pictures of long queues on the Causeway outside the Johor Baru checkpoint were uploaded on social media on Thursday morning.

One set of pictures shows the queues snaking out onto the road in front of the checkpoint building.

Another photo from a camera tracking traffic in front of the building similarly shows a queue spilling onto the road at about 9.40am.

When ST visited the Woodlands Checkpoint building at about 11.30am, there was a trickle of people entering the immigration area, but no queue was spotted inside.

Over a period of almost three hours, about 30 people were spotted dragging their luggage into the building.

Mr Krishna Murthy, 32, who works in the oil and gas industry, said he was glad he could make it before the revised rules on serving quarantine in designated centres kicked in.

He had not seen his wife since he returned to Singapore for work following their wedding in February, but is now looking forward to spending some time with her.

"I applied for home leave to go back to see my family. I am still working in Singapore and I will apply to come back when the Singapore-Malaysia green lane opens," he said.

Meanwhile, two Malaysians who lost their jobs in Singapore and have had trouble finding new ones said they decided to return earlier to avoid bearing the cost of staying at a designated quarantine facility.

Former forklift driver Bala Dinesh, 46, who has worked in Singapore for 14 years, said: "I have no money and no place to stay in Singapore. How am I going to pay the RM2,000 needed to stay in a quarantine centre with no work?

"But even after I go home, paying the bills and finding work is still going to be a problem."

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