23 September 2020
– By CHEW SENG KOK
As someone who has business interests in Singapore, I welcomed the introduction of the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL), which is supposed to facilitate single entry essential travel for businesses between Singapore and Malaysia.
I travelled frequently between the two countries prior to the movement control order (MCO). I was looking forward to arranging a trip to Singapore this week when I discovered a terrible anomaly in the implementation of the RGL.
The RGL guidelines stipulate that those travelling to Singapore are required to do a PCR test for Covid-19 in Kuala Lumpur prior to departure and do another swab test upon arrival at Changi Airport. The traveller is required to quarantine in a hotel until the result is available within 24 to 48 hours. If it is negative, the traveller is allowed to proceed to stay and conduct his business in Singapore.
After spending a maximum of 14 days in Singapore, the Malaysian returnee is required to do an antigen or swab test upon arrival at KLIA.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the Health Ministry guidelines stipulate that those returning to Malaysia are still required to do a 14-day quarantine at a designated location and would have to pay the costs of the accommodation incurred. Attachment 1B of the Health Ministry guidelines dated Aug 10, 2020 under the box “Returning to Malaysia” states “subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine at the designated Quarantine Station (at own cost).
I spoke to an officer from the Health Ministry who confirmed the 14-day quarantine requirement. To double-check, I asked the immigration officers at KLIA, who advised that those using the RGL need not comply with the 14-day quarantine requirement.
Now I am confused. In light of the conflicting messages from the authorities, it is difficult and unfair for someone like me to decide whether it is worth making a trip to Singapore using the RGL.
I find it ridiculous that I have to stay and pay for the 14-day quarantine in a hotel in Malaysia after returning from a business trip to Singapore for fewer than 14 days. As it is, I am already incurring the costs of doing Covid-19 tests prior to and upon arrival in both countries. I believe the 14-day requirement totally defeats the rationale and purpose of having the RGL between the two countries.
Compare the situation in Singapore where returning Singaporeans and permanent residents from Malaysia are, after doing the swab test upon arrival at Changi Airport, only required to serve a stay-at-home notice of seven days at their residence and take the Covid-19 test before the end of the seventh day.
The disparity in the implementation of the RGL between the two countries discriminates against the interests of Malaysians wishing to travel to Singapore for business. No wonder very few Malaysians are using this RGL procedure whereas our Singaporean counterparts are happily traveling to Malaysia on business.
I find it extremely disturbing that the spirit and rationale for a reciprocity which underpins the RGL is not being adopted in Malaysia to the detriment of Malaysians like me.
I sincerely hope the relevant authorities will urgently look into this matter and address the anomaly in the implementation of the RGL and alleviate the problems confronting Malaysians like me who need to travel frequently to Singapore on business.
CHEW SENG KOK