Singapore and Malaysia have finalised arrangements for long-term pass holders and travellers on essential or official business to cross the border — applications for which will kick off on Aug 10, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced on Sunday (Jul 26).
Operational details for the reciprocal green lane and periodic commuting arrangement will be published in the next few days.
Meanwhile, the two countries have also agreed to develop a proposal for daily commuters crossing the border for work.
This will take into account the required health protocols and available medical resources in both countries to ensure the safety of citizens of both sides.
"Give us a couple of weeks to monitor the figures both in Malaysia in particular Johor and in Singapore, and as we gain greater confidence that the control of the pandemic is well-executed in both places, we can then begin the discussions for how we can allow daily commuting," said Dr Balakrishnan.
"But you must bear in mind that even with a daily commuting model, there'll be a need for regular comprehensive testing on both sides. So the other parameter is also the availability of mass-scale testing on both sides of the Causeway.
"So there are quite a few more operational details that will need to be sorted out before we can get back to the daily commuting model."
The two countries are also working out arrangements for cross-border travel for compassionate reasons, he revealed.
"There are Malaysians and Singaporeans related by blood, and in the last few months, I've received so many desperate pleas. This is the other category, much smaller scale of course, which I have great sympathy for and we are trying to work out arrangements," he said.
Before Covid-19 restrictions were in place, more than 300,000 people, many of them Malaysians working in Singapore, crossed the land checkpoints between the two countries daily. While some Malaysian workers have remained in Singapore since the movement control order came into force on March 18 — resulting in families being separated, others are stuck in Malaysia, which has affected Singapore businesses that rely on Malaysian manpower.
The minister was speaking to reporters on Sunday at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint, after a meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at the mid-point of the Causeway to discuss arrangements for cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia.
Earlier this month (July), both countries announced that cross-border travel for long-term pass holders and travellers on essential or official business will begin on Aug 10 under two schemes — the reciprocal green lane and periodic commuting arrangement.
Eligible travellers for the green lane — meant for those on essential or official business — will have to abide by measures, including taking Covid-19 swab tests and submitting their itineraries.
The periodic commuting arrangement, on the other hand, will allow Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work. Dr Balakrishnan on Sunday said that travellers under this arrangement will also need to take Covid-19 swab tests.
After at least three consecutive months in their country of work, they may return to their home country for short-term home leave, and thereafter re-enter their country of work to continue working for at least another three consecutive months.
The requirements, health protocols and application process involved for entry and exit in Malaysia and Singapore will be published 10 days before their implementation, the authorities had previously announced.
Currently, long-term pass holders arriving in Singapore - other than those who have spent the last 14 days in certain countries or regions - have to serve a 14-day stay-home notice period at dedicated facilities.
Starting from Friday (Jul 24), everyone entering Malaysia from overseas, including Malaysians, will have to serve out their mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated quarantine facilities, and pay for the full cost of their stay. This would cost them about RM150 ($49) daily.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.