SINGAPORE: Singaporeans may be allowed to enter Malaysia without the need to undergo COVID-19 screening and home quarantine, but there should be a reciprocal arrangement for Malaysians, said Putrajaya on Friday (Jun 19).
Speaking during a press conference on COVID-19 measures, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the Malaysian government has agreed to allow citizens from both Singapore and Brunei to visit freely provided the same flexibility is extended to Malaysians entering both countries.
Mr Ismail Sabri, who is also defence minister, said this was because both Singapore and Brunei are categorised as green zones by the Malaysian Health Ministry.
“We have agreed to allow Singapore citizens that live in Singapore or Brunei citizens who live in Brunei to come into our country. Hence, we are opening up our country to Singapore citizens and Brunei citizens to come in without the need for approval from our immigration department or to undergo COVID-19 screening tests or home quarantine,” he said.
However, he noted that this was on the condition that Malaysians would also be afforded the same privileges.
“The loosening of the border restrictions must be reciprocated and both these countries must allow our citizens to enter without restrictions, as we have allowed,” said Mr Ismail Sabri.
For the case of Singapore, he stressed that the decision is dependent on the outcome of discussions between the foreign ministries of both sides.
“This is being negotiated by our foreign ministry with Singapore’s foreign ministry. They are still discussing … If they agree to our suggestions, we will agree to relax the restrictions and open our borders. So we have to wait and see how the discussions pan out,” the minister added.
"SINGAPORE PREPARED TO WORK WITH MALAYSIA": MFA
In a statement issued early Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said Singapore "has read media reports regarding Malaysia’s decision to lift the quarantine requirement for certain groups of travellers from Singapore".
"Singapore is prepared to work with Malaysia to address the needs of cross-border travellers, including short-term business and official travellers, and Singaporeans and Malaysians who were previously commuting between both countries."
Such bilateral arrangements would have to include mutually agreed public health protocols in order to safeguard citizens of both countries, the MFA spokesperson said.
"Both countries will require some time to work out the details on the gradual easing of border restrictions to ensure a stable recovery from the COVID-19 situation."
READ: Allowing Malaysians to commute to Singapore will boost both countries’ economies, says Johor chief minister
In a separate press conference on Friday, the Malaysian health ministry's director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said that Singapore was one of the six countries Malaysia was in negotiations with to facilitate the movement of citizens across their borders.
He noted that most of the COVID-19 cases in Singapore comprised foreign workers and that the proposed arrangement with Malaysia would only involve Singapore citizens.
"(The arrangement with Singapore and other countries) is doable but we need to explore ... The discussions are ongoing. If it is reciprocal, we can implement," said Dr Noor Hisham.
Earlier this month, Singapore’s National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that measures, safeguards and precautions have to be put in place before travel can resume between Singapore and Malaysia.
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the COVID-19 multi-ministry task force, said that before such travel can resume, testing may have to be carried out, a quarantine period may have to be imposed, or a combination of both measures.
He added that the volume of travel at the land checkpoints would not be as high as before COVID-19 hit both countries.
“We are talking about resumption of travel, but in a controlled manner and in a safe manner for both sides. That's in our mutual interest,” he said.
Malaysia's movement control order (MCO) has been in place since Mar 18, restricting domestic and international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now in the recovery phase of the MCO, which will last until Aug 31.
Similarly, Singapore implemented a circuit breaker period from Apr 7 to Jun 1, which tightened border controls. It is currently in Phase 2 of post-circuit breaker reopening.
To break the chain of infection, both governments mandated a 14-day quarantine for people entering the countries. These measures made it impossible for Malaysians, who live in Johor but work in Singapore, to travel across the strait.