Covid-19: Singapore moves to find temp housing for Malaysian workers affected by home nation’s shutdown

A view of a thermal scanning checkpoint manned by security personnel at the entrance to Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore, March 6, 2020. — Reuters pic
A view of a thermal scanning checkpoint manned by security personnel at the entrance to Gardens by the Bay’s Cloud Forest as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore, March 6, 2020. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Singapore is helping companies there arrange accommodation for their Malaysian employees during Malaysia's two-week travel ban over the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) beginning tomorrow, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said today.

Chan noted that many firms with Malaysian workers were "concerned with the continuity of their operations" during the period when Malaysians may not leave the country to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

"Since last night, many employers are enquiring if they can provide temporary accommodation to Malaysian workers who may wish to stay in Singapore during this period.

"Our economic agencies are working with the companies, dormitory operators and hotels to provide options for companies.

“Companies who need help for their workers accommodation can contact our economic agencies and also work with their trade associations," he said in comments to the media today, just a day before the two-week overseas travel ban by Malaysia kicks in.

As for the Malaysian government's announcement last night of a movement control order — which includes the two-week overseas travel ban — to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, Chan said the Singapore government remains in touch with the Malaysian government pending further details.

"Not all details are available yet. We are in contact with the Malaysian authorities as they work out their operational details," he said.

In the announcement last night of the two-week order from March 18 (tomorrow) to March 31, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin said Malaysians cannot travel abroad and that no tourists or foreigners will be allowed to enter the country during this period.

Muhyiddin’s announcement did not specifically explain what the order meant for Malaysians commuting regularly between Malaysia and Singapore for work.

On top of Chan’s offer of the Singapore government’s assistance in arranging for temporary housing for Malaysian employees, he also went on to assure Singaporeans that the republic has planned “for many years” for a possible disruption of the country’s supplies from Malaysia.

Chan said that Singapore will have sufficient food supplies for all its citizens if they buy responsibly, noting that the country’s plan to manage the situation includes a combination of stockpiling, building up local production capacities and having many countries serve as its sources of supply.

“This combination of stockpiling and local production will provide us time to bring in alternative supplies, should our usual supply lines be disrupted, as in Malaysia in the current context,” he said.

He told Singaporeans that the country has more than three months’ worth of stockpile of carbohydrates like rice and noodles and that the country could produce its own noodles, while more than two months’ worth of proteins and vegetables at normal consumption levels are available with a combination of fresh, frozen and canned options to meet the demand.

He also said Singapore has local production of eggs and that it has activated other air freight options to act as substitutes if Malaysian supplies of eggs are disrupted.

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