KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Covid-19 tests and contact-tracing must be in place before Singapore’s borders with Malaysia can be reopened step by step, a Singaporean minister said.
Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan told Channel News Asia last night that a “big bang” approach to reopening the border between the two neighbouring countries was impossible and would be deemed unwise, as measures need to be put in place to ensure safe border-crossing in the new normal post-Covid-19.
“I do not see it possible to have a big bang complete, no holds barred, no restrictions, no tests (approach) — I think that would be unwise.
“But we can open up in steps, have the appropriate measures to test people, contact trace people because when you open up, your risk (of infection) will inevitably increase,” Dr Balakrishnan reportedly said.
When asked about a projected date of when travels between Singapore and Malaysia can resume, he expressed that he would “hesitate to put a timeline”, as authorities from both sides of the Causeway have to work out many details related to Covid-19 preventive measures.
“We have to work out those protocols and to make sure those protocols are effective on both sides of the Causeway. So just give us a few, I would say, days to weeks,” he reportedly said, adding that public health is one of the key considerations.
“We need to protect the public health of both Singapore and Malaysia, and we need to understand that the world’s busiest land crossing is between Johor and Singapore … so we have to work out a lot of details,” he said.
“Right now…there are papers and phone calls being exchanged, we’re trying to sort it out.”
Putrajaya last week said that Singaporeans may be allowed to enter Malaysia without undergoing Covid-19 screening and mandatory home quarantine, but there should be a mutual arrangement for Malaysians as well.
In response to that, Dr Balakrishnan said consensual arrangements on cross-border travels between the two countries would have to include jointly agreed public health protocols in order to protect citizens of both countries from the spread of the novel coronavirus in the new normal.
Singapore has recorded over 42,000 Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths, whereas Malaysia has confirmed 8,590 cases and 121 fatalities.