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KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — There is an urgent need to discuss policies for the reopening of the Johor-Singapore border for blue-collar Malaysians who are suffering from income loss due to the Covid-19 pandemic, says Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong.
He said the matter of border reopening is not solely the responsibility of the Johor state government but is a larger matter between two countries, and therefore urged all parties to sit down and figure out a way to allow the near 400,000 Malaysians relying on menial jobs in Singapore to travel to-and-fro on a daily basis.
“Reopening the Johor-Singapore borders sustainably requires the effort of parties at various levels,” Chin Tong said in a statement.
“Johor DAP is ready to discuss the formulation of detailed policy proposals with Wisma Putra and the Johor state government to help ordinary Malaysian workers whose livelihood depends on their cross-border jobs, especially those in the manual and low wage sectors.”
Recently, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad said that the state government will recommend that a special travel bubble be introduced for those who have received the Covid-19 vaccine, allowing them to travel to Singapore.
He said the reopening of the Malaysia-Singapore border in Johor and the green travel bubble initiative with the republic can be considered upon the completion of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
Liew, however, argued that Singapore would likely impose quarantine measures for incoming travellers as a precaution since evidence is still being gathered to confirm if vaccinations will completely stop the transmission of the virus.
“So far, the most concrete evidence only showed that vaccinations provided a person immunity or protected a person from the worst outcomes associated with the virus,” he said.
Apart from that there is also the issue of quarantine costs for the mostly blue collar workers in the manufacturing and service sectors.
He said the Singapore Reciprocal Green Lane and Periodic Commuting Arrangement schemes involved mostly professional workers who could afford to conduct tests and self quarantine in Singapore and Malaysia.
These costs were borne by the companies or the workers themselves.
“If the Johor mentri besar and the Malaysian government are serious in addressing this issue especially for those working in the more manual and low wage sectors in Singapore, they could subsidise the costs of quarantining in Malaysia and provide some sort of grant for workers to stay in Singapore.
“Alternatively they could work with the Singapore government to partly subsidise the cost of quarantine for Malaysian B40 workers,” he said.
“This cost can be borne by the Singapore government or the companies employing them. After all, these Malaysian workers are providing valuable services to the citizens and the government of Singapore,” Liew added.