Surge in travellers between S'pore and Malaysia not a concern for Covid-19 situation here: Health experts

The social and economic benefits of removing land restrictions between Malaysia and Singapore will outweigh any additional Covid-19 cases, said one expert. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
As at 5pm on April 1, some 33,700 travellers have crossed the Second Link and the Causeway. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Though tens of thousands of people have travelled between Johor and Singapore since the land borders reopened on April 1, experts who spoke to The Straits Times are not concerned about how this might potentially impact the Covid-19 situation here. 

As at 5pm on April 1, some 33,700 travellers had crossed the border. 

Associate Professor Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore, noted that the epidemic situations in Singapore and Malaysia are quite similar, given that both countries have a similar number of deaths per capita.

“There is a higher incidence of diagnosed cases in Singapore, about double Malaysia’s, but similar deaths per capita. So this difference in case counts could be due to higher case ascertainment,” he said.

Both countries also have falling case counts and high vaccination rates among adults. 

“Given those similarities, people crossing the border are moving to and from areas of very similar risk, so the effect of allowing border crossing should be close to neutral on both countries’ epidemics. If the Omicron variant could not sustain itself in Singapore with 20,000 cases a day a month ago, it cannot sustain itself now, even with additional cases from other countries,” Prof Cook added.

The social and economic benefits of removing land restrictions between the two countries will greatly outweigh any additional Covid-19 cases, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

The land borders had been closed since March 17, 2020. 

“Many families are reuniting for the first time, or have not seen their loved ones for many months. The rules had previously made travel administratively challenging and costly, especially for those who frequent Singapore and Johor on an almost daily basis,” he added.

“Even if there is a slight uptick in Covid-19 cases because of this, it is very unlikely to impact the overall Covid-19 situation in Singapore. It is normal to see small waves as more people mingle, and we should not be too unduly worried about these things.”

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