JOHOR BARU: The government’s announcement that the Johor Causeway and Second Link are set to reopen after a three-month hiatus has received mixed reactions from folk here.
The move will impact tens of thousands of workers, businessmen, investors and Malaysians studying in Singapore.
Most of them are happy with the reopening of the border but there are some who are worried as they felt it was too soon to do so amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Singapore has almost five times more cases than Malaysia.
As of yesterday, the republic recorded 39,850 Covid-19 cases. Most of their cases involved foreign workers living in dormitories.
However, Singapore has recorded a lower number of deaths at 25.
In comparison, Malaysia has 119 deaths and 8,402 infections as of yesterday.
Johor itself has 673 cases with 20 deaths.
Many of the economic activities in Singapore, which were previously halted in their version of the lockdown known as circuit breaker, and schools have started reopening in stages since June 2.
The Malaysian government announced earlier this week that the border with Singapore would reopen when a proper standard operating procedure (SOP) that is agreeable to both countries was in place.
High-level discussions have been going on for some time.
There has been talk that the border with Singapore will be opened by the end of the month.
Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad has been eager for the reopening of the border since day one of the movement control order in view of the huge economic and social impact on the state.
There are about 200,000 to 250,000 Malaysians who commute daily between both countries.
These are mainly workers while there are about 2,000 Malaysian students attending schools in Singapore.
The closing of the border has also affected investors as many Singaporean businessmen could not commute to their factories that are located in Johor.
Singapore is one of the biggest investors in Johor with about RM19bil in the manufacturing sector alone since 1999.
The Johor Causeway has never been closed even during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.
Presently, only heavy vehicles have been plying between both countries daily to deliver goods.
But to reopen one of the busiest land crossings in the world will be no easy task.
Thus, it is of paramount urgency for a proper SOP to be adopted by both countries before the border can be reopened in an orderly fashion.
The border should also be opened in several phases.
The first stage should apply to workers with valid Singapore work permits, then frequent travellers especially the business community, and finally those who want to travel for leisure and holidays.
For a start, the authorities should try to limit the number of travellers daily to a few thousand to ensure there is no congestion at the border.
Those travelling between both countries should also be required to register with the MySejahtera app in Malaysia and any similar app in Singapore to allow for easy contract tracing in case anyone is found to be infected.
The state government should also work with private clinics and hospitals in Johor to get workers tested at least three days before entering Singapore.
It should also be made mandatory for everyone travelling between both countries to wear face masks, practise social distancing and use hand sanitisers.
Medical teams should be stationed at the bus, car and motorcycle lanes at the two Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complexes.
Thermal cameras placed at both check-points since January should be operational to detect those with fever or increased body temperatures.
Those with symptoms should be immediately tested for Covid-19 and not allowed to continue with their travel.
To date, local foundation Yayasan Sultan Ibrahim, the Temasek group and the Thompson Medical group in Singapore have offered to contribute test kits and two mobile Covid-19 test laboratories.
Efforts should be undertaken to have a proper and practical post Covid-19 SOP between Malaysia and Singapore, as these guidelines can then be used to reopen Malaysia’s land, sea and air borders.
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