In spirit of neighbourliness, let border reopen soon

Johoreans are hoping that the empty roads around the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine in Johor Baru, near the Causeway, will become a hive of activity once again. — Filepic

MANY will be tuning in to their television sets, phones and radios tomorrow to find out the goodies that await them in Budget 2022.

Most are likely to be hoping for more cash handouts, loan assistance and income tax cuts as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll not just on lives but on livelihoods too.

For the people of Johor, besides funding for ongoing mega projects such as the Rapid Transit System or Double-Tracking Rail project, they want more measures to spur economic growth.

They are hoping that a “travel bubble” for the fully vaccinated will be implemented soon with Singapore.

The border with the island republic has been partially shut since March 18 last year.

At the height of the movement control order, thousands of Malaysians chose to remain there because of the high quarantine costs — almost RM10,000 — on both sides that would stretch to 28 days (14 days in Singapore and 14 in Malaysia).

The good news is that Malaysia has now reduced its quarantine period to seven days for the fully vaccinated and effective yesterday, Singapore is allowing those fully vaccinated from Malaysia to serve their 10-day stay-home notice at a declared place of residence or accommodation.

This will result in significant savings for those who want to travel between both countries.

Covid-19 is here to stay and the only way forward is to find ways to live with the virus, which has to date claimed more than 28,000 lives in Malaysia and over 300 in Singapore.

Malaysia is recording an average of 5,000 cases daily while in Singapore, the figure is hovering around the 3,000 mark daily.

Almost 95% of Malaysia’s adult population has been vaccinated and with Johor in Phase Four of the National Recovery Plan, it is an opportune time for both countries to have a “controlled opening” of the border for the fully vaccinated.

Previously, both countries had the Reciprocal Green Lane and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement.

MIC’s Singapore workers affairs bureau chief S. Aruldass had suggested that rail and bus services resume first to manage crowds before the Causeway could be opened to motorists.

The Tebrau Shuttle, which plies the 1km between Johor Baru and Woodlands, once made as many as 31 trips daily and could accommodate up to 400 passengers.

Now with the need for physical distancing, the number can probably be brought down to 200.

We can also have special buses to ferry people between both checkpoints.

We cannot delay the opening of the border any further and in the spirit of neighbourliness, Singapore and Malaysia should come up with standard operating procedures that can be implemented on both sides.

Putrajaya should also take into account Johor’s suggestions and feedback on the border reopening.

Let’s hope the travel bubble becomes a reality sooner rather than later, so more families in Malaysia and Singapore will finally be able to reunite with their loved ones.

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