Hopes rise for Singapore-Malaysia cross border travel


For people stuck on either side of the Causeway, the possible resumption of cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia is cause for optimism, says a Straits Times report. The authorities of both countries agreed last week to restart cross-border travel for essential business and official travellers and long-term pass holders through two schemes: the reciprocal green lane and the periodic commuting arrangement.

Though more details will be announced before these new travel schemes take effect on August 10, travellers will have to get swabbed for Covid-19 and submit their itineraries to the relevant authorities, the report says.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the two schemes are meant to address the needs of different groups of cross-border travellers.

The green lane will enable cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes, and eligible travellers will have to abide by the prevailing Covid-19 prevention and public health measures mutually agreed upon by both countries. These include undergoing polymerase chain reaction swab tests, says the Straits Times report.

The periodic commuting arrangement will allow holders of long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work. After at least three consecutive months in their country of work, these pass holders may return to their home country for a short home leave, and thereafter re-enter their country of work for at least another three consecutive months, said the statement.

Relevant agencies of both governments are finalising the standard operating procedures of the two initiatives, including any quarantine requirements.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, more than 300,000 travellers had used the Causeway every day. Among these were about 100,000 Malaysians who commuted daily between Singapore and Malaysia. Since Malaysia shut its border on March 18, a number of them have either lost their jobs in Singapore or have had to endure lengthy separation from their families in Johor Bahru, the Straits Times report says. It is still unclear who will qualify for the green lane and periodic commuting arrangement.

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said in a Bloomberg interview in May that senior management for multinational companies and skilled technicians who need to maintain critical systems around the world will qualify as essential business travellers.

In Singapore, industries that rely heavily on workers from Malaysia, such as renovation and security services, have been hit by the border closure. According to Singapore Renovation Contractors and Material Suppliers Association, about 80% of workers in the renovation trade are Malaysians and most of them are stuck in Malaysia. They include painters, carpenters and electricians, the Straits Times report says.