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Malaysians working in Singapore affected by border closure, but flow of food supplies will continue: PM Lee

GOODS can still move across the Causeway after a looming border closure kicks in, but Johor residents who work in Singapore will be affected by Malaysia’s snap travel restrictions.

This fresh clarification on the scope of Malaysia’s unprecedented move to contain the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus came on Tuesday afternoon from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, after he spoke by telephone with his counterpart, Muhyiddin Yassin.

Meanwhile, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean will work on bilateral responses to the Covid-19 outbreak with Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is Malaysia’s defence minister, said Mr Lee in a statement.

“They are already in touch, but it may take a couple of days for arrangements to be worked out and to settle down,” Mr Lee said, with Singapore and Malaysia set to coordinate efforts on how they can work together “or where the actions of one country will affect the other”.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan also said, after talks with Malaysian Cabinet officials and Johor chief minister Hasni Mohammad, that “we have agreed to work out the operational details together so that goods, cargo, and food supplies continue to flow between our countries”.

Singapore announced tighter immigration controls on Sunday for travellers who had recently been in the rest of Asean, but exempted visitor arrivals at its sea and land checkpoints with Malaysia.

But, in a move announced late on Monday by Mr Muhyiddin, Malaysia will now block its citizens from leaving its borders from March 18 to 31 - although Mr Lee described the development as “not surprising, as many other countries have already imposed similar lockdowns”.

While he said that Mr Muhyiddin has confirmed that the flow of food supplies and other goods and cargo between Singapore and Malaysia will continue, Mr Lee also noted that Malaysians who live in Johor but work here will have to comply with the Malaysian movement control order.

“This will prevent them from commuting daily, at least for the time being,” Mr Lee added.

“We are therefore working out arrangements with our companies to help these Malaysian workers stay in Singapore temporarily, if they would like to do so.”

Dr Balakrishnan added that Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Trade and Industry “are also working with businesses and enterprises on interim arrangements for Malaysian workers to remain in Singapore while the lockdown is in place in Malaysia”.

The MOM earlier on Tuesday issued an advisory on short-term housing options for employers whose staff commute across the Singapore-Malaysia border.