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SINGAPORE -Travel between Singapore and Malaysia on compassionate grounds will be permitted beginning May 17, despite Covid-19 restrictions prohibiting the majority of cross-border movement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Sunday that the specifics of such travel arrangements will be released later, but that they will include measures such as checking tourists for the coronavirus and the need for quarantine (May 2).

Dr. Balakrishnan made the announcement alongside his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who is in Singapore for a two-day official visit that ends on Sunday.Mr Hishammuddin explained that the humanitarian reasons will apply to cases in which people from both sides request to cross the border to be with seriously ill people or to attend funerals.

Singapore Malaysia Allow Compassionate
Image Source: The Straits Times

The step, according to Dr. Balakrishnan, is appropriate because the two countries have “extensive relations.”
“When a family crisis occurs, people want to get together. And therefore, bearing in mind this very special close relationship between the people of Singapore and the people of Malaysia, it is necessary to have schemes like this,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“So we’ll announce further details on the types of tests and quarantine arrangements which will be necessary in order to operationalise this scheme.”

The respective authorities of each country, namely the Department of Immigration in Malaysia and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in Singapore, will release details of the procedures and entry requirements.

The two leaders also addressed the possibility of a possible air travel bubble between Singapore and Malaysia, with Mr Hishammuddin stating that further talks with both countries’ transport ministries would be needed.They also discussed mutual recognition of vaccine certificates to ease potential cross-border travel, which will be done online, according to Mr Hishammuddin. He went on to say that for such travel to take place, both countries’ digital touch tracing tools would have to be compatible.

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The two ministers welcomed an agreement reached by the Singapore Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation on the shared technical verification of health certificates issued in Singapore and Malaysia, according to a joint statement released on Sunday.The decision to allow compassionate travel is the most recent in a series of agreements between the two countries to deal with the consequences of Covid-19.
In addition to the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL), which has been suspended since February, and the Periodic Commuting Arrangement, ongoing attempts are being made to gradually restore cross-border travel for other classes of travellers (PCA). Mr Hishammuddin said that these issues were also addressed on Sunday.

Licensed travelers must stay in their country of employment for at least 90 days before returning home for short-term home leave under the PCA. Only the Causeway and the Second Connection are accessible to such travelers. They must serve a 14-day stay-at-home notice upon arrival in Singapore before being swabbed for the virus.The RGL between Singapore and Malaysia is designed to make short-term business and official travel between the two countries more convenient. It provides for up to 14 days of travel and requires that those who travel under it adhere to a strict itinerary. For example, they are unable to use public transportation and must instead rely on private-hire cars and taxis.

The ministers expressed their satisfaction in a joint statement that, despite the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral relations and cooperation remained intact and solid, as evidenced by the uninterrupted flow of goods between the two countries.Dr. Balakrishnan pointed out that Singapore and Malaysia have never fully closed their borders, allowing vital supply chains carrying medicine, food, and other necessities to continue to flow.

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This is due to the unique relationship that exists between Singapore and Malaysia, especially Johor, and why special arrangements have been made, such as having visitors on compassionate grounds.
“Even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge both our countries, rest assured we will work very closely together, we will support each other, and our people-to-people ties will be protected and will be nurtured,” he said.

Source: The Straits Times

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