Cross-border trips covering only compassionate reasons such as death and visits to critically ill loved ones will be allowed soon. These trips will come under a scheme facilitating trips between Malaysia and Singapore. It is set to kick off on May 17th.
Joint-statement after two-day visit to Singapore
The news comes after the 2-day official visit of the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, to Singapore, which started on Saturday, May 1st. On Sunday May 2nd, Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Malaysian counterpart Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, released a joint statement.
According to the statement, the two ministers agreed during the visit, to work towards the resumption of essential cross-border travel in a gradual and safe manner.
Both ministers said “To this end, the two Ministers agreed on the procedures and entry requirements for death and critically ill emergency visits between Singapore and Malaysia. This agreement provides a framework to facilitate travel between the two countries for compassionate and emergency reasons.”
The statement went on to say, “Details of the procedures and entry requirements will be released by the respective authorities of each country, namely the Department of Immigration of Malaysia and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA). The arrangement will be implemented from May 17 onwards.”
Extensive ties of kinship
Dr Balakrishnan said that the scheme is really needed because of the extensive ties of kinship between Malaysia and Singapore. He said this on Sunday after their meeting at the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore.
Dr Balakrishnan said “Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, and when 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.”
He added that both governments will bilaterally announce further details on types of COVID-19 tests and necessary quarantine arrangements to start off this scheme effectively.
Malaysian Prime Minister’s focus
There were initial plans for Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to make an official visit to Singapore on Monday, said Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin. The trip has been postponed due to two reasons.
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin said the first reason is Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s current focus is on addressing the rising COVID-19 cases in Malaysia. The second reason is that it is not the “right environment” for both Tan Sri Muhyiddin and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to meet up, given the present situation. Both leaders were to meet to discuss resuming of cross-border travel on a larger scale.
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin said he and Dr Balakrishnan were hoping the two Prime Ministers would meet. The meeting may have resolved the gradual resumption of cross-border travel. It also could have eased the movement for citizens of both countries.
Very challenging for both sides
The Ministers were hoping the Prime Ministers meeting would conclude with a final decision at the highest levels. Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin said the current COVID-19 situation “doesn’t provide the right environment for both Prime Ministers to discuss that particular matter.”
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin said it is currently very hard to finalize a safe and concrete solution on cross-border travel. It is also hard to frame exactly what both governments could announce to their citizens. Hence, both Ministers of Foreign Affairs share the opinion it would be better to postpone a meeting between their leaders. The Prime Ministers could meet when both governments are ready to make this long awaited announcement.
Both governments are working on mutually recognizing health certificates according to Dr Balakrishnan. Their focus is on the COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test records and vaccinations.
Dr Balakrishnan said all this is currently ongoing at a technical level. He stressed that this is to prepare for future cross-border travel, when the COVID-19 situation improves in both countries. When that time is right, travel can be easier than where it currently stands now, according to Dr Balakrishnan.
Singapore’s TraceTogether and Malaysia’s MySejahtera, are both COVID-19 digital applications. According to Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin, both sides are discussing the mutual recognition of the digital vaccination certificates.
Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin said “Mutual recognition of vaccination certificates … and MySejahtera, TraceTogether need to be compatible, and we hope that by the time the two Prime Ministers meet, whether at the end of the year during their informal meeting or maybe if time or situation permits, earlier, for Tan Sri Muhyiddin to be able to make an official visit to Singapore.”
Both the Singaporean and Malaysian governments IT sectors have agreed to work on the mutual technical verification.
3rd May 2021 23:00
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