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Malaysia, Singapore eye gradual resumption of cross border travel

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A file picture shows vehicles forming a long queue to enter the Woodlands checkpoint in Singapore on March 17, 2020 from across the causeway of the southern Malaysian state of Johor. AFP

JOHOR BARU, Malaysia (Malay Mail) – Malaysia may reopen its border with Singapore as early as August 17 under the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCS), said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He announced this after what he described as a positive meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, at the Johor-Singapore Causeway on Sunday.

Hishammuddin explained that applications under RGL and PCS may be submitted starting August 10.

However, he reminded travellers, especially Malaysians, to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) agreed by both governments.

“We will detail the SOP announcement in due time, but I hope the public understands how important the opening of the Malaysia-Singapore border is for the government.

“If the initial opening of the border is successful, we can then further discuss with Singapore to then open our borders to other travellers,” said Hishammuddin.

He said this during a press conference held at the Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex here today.

Also present was Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad.

Hishammuddin said that apart from the RGL and PCS, there were also proposals for daily border crossings for work purposes expected to involve over 200,000 Malaysians and Singaporeans as well as a full reopening of the shared border.

“For the third and fourth schemes, the Malaysian and Singaporean governments still need to detail many things before it can be implemented due to safety and health as the Covid-19 situation is clearly not over yet.“In other words, it takes time.

“Most importantly, approval of this proposal is subject to the ability of both countries to conduct daily COVID-19 screening tests on the commuting workers,” said Hishammuddin.

The minister said the approval would depend on the level of discipline and compliance of the people in both countries within the RGL and PCA schemes.

“If the people of both countries comply with the SOPs, then we will see the probability of allowing cross-border travel under the third and fourth categories,” said Hishammuddin, adding that it was important to have political will in balancing the economy and health of the people.

Hishammuddin added that if the full implementation of the RGL and PCS schemes was successful, it could be a template for opening the country’s borders to other countries.

For example he said the government can initiate discussions with other countries for the Green Bubble concept to revitalise the regional tourism and economic sectors between nations that had shown positive strides in battling COVID-19.

The Green Bubble concept is where travel restrictions are eased between countries which have successfully contained the pandemic. Travellers from other countries are not allowed.

Earlier, Hasni said come August 10, the Johor government will ensure all those who applied will abide by the set SOPs.

He said the state government will give their full commitment to the start
of the Malaysia-Singapore border opening.

The PCA will allow more than 2,000 residents of Singapore and Malaysia who hold long-term immigration passes for business and employment purposes to enter the country for work.

The RGL allows 400 Malaysians and Singaporeans to travel to and from the two countries a week, but this is restricted to official travel and important business matters.

 

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