SINGAPORE: Companies affected by Malaysia's travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 outbreak will receive an allowance of S$50 per worker per night for 14 nights to cover the extra costs incurred, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Tuesday (Mar 17).
This comes after Malaysia announced it would bar citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country for about two weeks starting Wednesday.
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"MOM has been working with tripartite partners to support the affected companies. If they need their workers to stay in Singapore, the way to help them is to find suitable accommodation," said Mrs Teo at the press conference.
Mrs Teo said that affected workers should first try to stay with friends, family and colleagues who can accommodate them, and if not - hotels or dormitories.
"For every affected worker, we will provide the firms with the support of S$50 a night for 14 nights," she said, adding that more details on how to apply will be shared.
"Whatever the arrangements, we appreciate that businesses had to respond very quickly and incurred some additional costs as a result," added Mrs Teo.
"I’m confident that by the end of the day, any one of the affected workers that need to stay in Singapore will be able to find suitable accommodation."
She added that the support put together for the companies was "a temporary relief measure".
Companies will be given the time to assess what they want to do in terms of their manpower staffing and also to work out "sustainable arrangements", said Mrs Teo.
SINGAPORE GIVEN HEADS UP BEFORE MALAYSIA'S ANNOUNCEMENT
During the conference, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that the Malaysian government had given Singapore "some heads up" before announcing the restrictions.
"They probably realised given the severity, given the seriousness, this was something they had to do. And we understand why," said Mr Wong.
"I think if we were facing a similar situation we would have to consider very stringent measures as well," he added.
"They did what was necessary, and like I said, a measure like this will cause inconvenience, will cause disruptions, but in some ways if you look at it and what has been done it will help to control the transmission of the virus across the border," said Mr Wong.
"So we now have to deal with the consequences and make adjustments."
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BEYOND TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Mr Wong added that discussions among the officials have also touched on what Singapore would need to do beyond the period of Malaysia's travel restrictions.
"At some point, if the measures were to be lifted at the Malaysian side, we certainly don’t think we can go to business as usual," said Mr Wong.
"Extra precautions need to be taken at the border at the land checkpoints."
Regarding an influx on Tuesday of those who travel between Malaysia and Singapore, Mr Wong said that there was no additional COVID-19 risk.
"These are the same people who have been travelling day in day out for the last few days," he said.
"They have been commuting between the two countries anyway. There is no additional risk in that sense, these are not new people coming. They are workers who have already been coming here."
Mr Wong added that Singapore was working with Malaysian authorities to manage the flow of people over the next one or two days.
He also urged Singaporeans to comply with the Ministry of Health's (MOH) advisory to defer non-essential travel, after the emergence of more imported COVID-19 cases involving Singapore residents who had returned from overseas.
The majority of imported cases in recent days have not involved foreign visitors such as tourists, but Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who had been travelling and were infected by the virus when they were overseas.
MALAYSIA'S TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had said on Monday night that all Malaysians will be prohibited from leaving the country from Mar 18 to Mar 31. Visitors will also not be allowed to enter the country.
Malaysia’s Immigration Department confirmed that Malaysians working in Singapore and Thailand will be affected by the travel restrictions. About 300,000 people commute between the two border crossings between Malaysia and Singapore every day.
READ: Malaysia bars citizens from going overseas, foreigners from entering the country for 2 weeks to curb COVID-19 spread - PM Muhyiddin
On Tuesday, Singapore said it will make available a range of short-term housing options for some workers who commute frequently between Singapore and Malaysia.
Malaysia has assured Singapore that the flow of goods and cargo between the two countries will continue, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing also assured Singaporeans that Singapore has plans to manage a disruption of supplies from Malaysia through a combination of stockpiling, local production and diversification of overseas sources.