Singapore and Malaysia finalise cross-border travel schemes

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They are for long-term pass holders and travellers on essential or official business

Singapore and Malaysia have finalised arrangements for long-term pass holders and travellers on essential or official business to cross the border, applications for which will kick off on Aug 10, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced yesterday.

Operational details of the reciprocal green lane and periodic commuting arrangement will be published in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the two countries have also agreed to develop a proposal for daily commuters crossing the border for work. But this will not be in place so soon, Dr Balakrishnan said.

"Give us a couple of weeks to monitor the figures both in Malaysia, in particular Johor, and in Singapore, and as we gain greater confidence that the control of the pandemic is well executed in both places, we can then begin the discussions for how we can allow daily commuting," he said.

He added there may be a need for regular comprehensive testing on both sides even with a daily commuting model.

"The other parameter is also the availability of mass-scale testing on both sides of the Causeway," he said, adding that there are a few operational details to be sorted out before the model can be adopted.

The two countries are working out arrangements for cross-border travel for compassionate reasons, he revealed.

"There are Malaysians and Singaporeans related by blood, and in the last few months, I've received so many desperate pleas - 'my parent or my grandparent is in hospital, or is in the intensive care unit', or sometimes worse, has passed away. And they want so desperately to see their own (and) bid a final farewell."

Before Covid-19 restrictions were in place, more than 300,000 people, many of them Malaysians working in Singapore, crossed the land checkpoints between the two countries daily.

While some Malaysian workers have remained in Singapore since the movement control order came into force on March 18 - resulting in families being separated - others are stuck in Malaysia, which has affected Singapore businesses that rely on Malaysian manpower.

Dr Balakrishnan was speaking to reporters at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority building in Woodlands after a meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein at the mid-point of the Causeway to discuss arrangements for cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia.

Earlier this month, both countries announced that cross-border travel for long-term pass holders and travellers on essential or official business would begin on Aug 10 under two schemes - the reciprocal green lane and periodic commuting arrangement.

Eligible travellers for the green lane - meant for those on essential or official business - will have to abide by measures, including taking Covid-19 swab tests and submitting their itineraries.

The periodic commuting arrangement will allow Singapore and Malaysia residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.