Singapore, Malaysia share common desire to reopen, reconnect: Ong Ye Kung

Discussions between both countries are ongoing and Singapore will continuously update its border measures accordingly.
Discussions between both countries are ongoing and Singapore will continuously update its border measures accordingly.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore and Malaysia share a common desire to re-establish connections, and hope to start taking concrete actions to reopen borders as soon as possible, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Saturday (Oct 9).

Discussions between both countries are ongoing and Singapore will continuously update its border measures accordingly, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Transport Minister S. Iswaran added.

They were responding at a press conference held by the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19 here to Malaysian government news agency Bernama, on whether Singapore would consider reviewing its border measures for Johor.

The Bernama reporter said the state has ramped up its vaccination roll-out in hopes of resuming the free movement of people to and from Singapore, which is critical to its economy.

Singapore classifies countries and regions into four categories based on their risks of Covid-19 transmission, with differentiated border measures for each group.

Category IV, where Malaysia sits, comprises places deemed to have the highest risk.

Johor's chief minister told The Straits Times last month that he was confident of vaccinating 80 per cent of the state by the end of October. As at Saturday, 62.3 per cent of Johor's population are fully inoculated, slightly behind the 64.6 per cent for the whole of Malaysia.

Mr Wong said the categories are reviewed fortnightly to take into account the infection situation and vaccination status in different territories, including Malaysia.

"As the situation in Malaysia improves, I have no doubt that over time, it will be reflected in the category that it is," he added.

Mr Wong said the "order of risk" for land crossings differed from air travel and would have to be considered separately.

He noted that before the pandemic, there was a high volume of people traversing the Causeway to visit families or for work purposes. Before the border closed in March last year, about half a million people made the daily overland trip between Singapore and state capital Johor Baru.

There are an estimated more than 100,000 Malaysians stuck in Singapore and hoping to be reunited with families back home.

Present cross-border travel with Malaysia is facilitated by the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) scheme and the framework for emergency visits in case of deaths or critical illness.

Applications for the PCA have to be sponsored by companies, and approved travellers must have stayed in their country of employment for at least 90 days before returning home for short-term home leave. After going back to Singapore, they then have to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.