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By Massita Ahmad
SINGAPORE, Oct 9 -- Any travel arrangement between Johor and Singapore, in particular over the Causeway, has to be looked at differently unlike air travel as the volume of people traveling between both sides across the land link can be very large.
Co-chairperson of Singapore’s Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) on COVID-19, Lawrence Wong at a virtual press conference today said the order of risk is quite different from air travel and has to be looked at differently and considered separately.
“We understand that there are people on both sides of the Causeway who would like to travel to visit families or even to travel for work, but the volume of people who will be traveling between both sides can be very large if you look at what it was before COVID-19,” said Wong who is also the republic’s Finance Minister.
Also present Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Transport Minister S. Iswaran, and Director of Medical Services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak.
As the republic had placed the whole of Malaysia under Category IV of higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, MTF was asked by Bernama whether Singapore may consider having a different travel arrangement across the Causeway particularly with Johor only.
However, Wong assured that Singapore is indeed having discussions with its counterparts in Malaysia on both sets of issues regarding air travel, as well as travel across by land.
“We will continue to update our measures accordingly,” he said, adding that the republic is updating the categories that it has for different countries on a periodic basis of every two weeks.
“As the situation in Malaysia improves, I have no doubt that over time it will be reflected in the category that it is in from Category IV… perhaps eventually to a different category before too long,” he said.
Responding to the same question, Health Minister Ong said : “It is really our common desire and I think is both countries’ common desire to re-establish connection as early as we can.”
“Malaysia is on the downward trend of your wave. We are still on the upward trend, but let us hope in the very near future we can start having concrete actions to re-establish our connections and our border opening,” said Ong.
Johor is currently ramping up its vaccination in hopes of reopening the border with Singapore and get workers commuting again.
Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad had recently said the technical committee on the opening of the border had agreed with the standard operating procedure (SOP) suggested by the state.
Hasni had reportedly said that it is estimated that more than 100,000 Malaysians were still in Singapore ever since the border was closed in March last year.
He also said that the increase in COVID-19 cases in Singapore is not seen as an obstacle to their effort to discuss reopening the borders.
It is estimated that about half a million people from both sides cross the Causeway daily, dubbed to be the busiest land crossing in the world before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, in his response, Transport Minister Iswaran noted that Singapore continues its engagement and discussions with several countries.
“We fully intend to further, reopen our borders in the cautious and calibrated manner.. with a view towards reopening and reconnecting. And in that regard, certainly our immediate neighbors…we are an important part of those ongoing engagement,” he said.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Management Special Committee has decided to allow Johor to move to Phase 3 from Phase 2 under the National Recovery Plan (NRP), effective last Friday (Oct 8).
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