KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia and Singapore have agreed in principle to reopen their mutual border with a business travel "green lane," eyeing a mid-August start date.
The neighbors on Tuesday released a joint statement explaining that the plan would enable cross-border travel for essential business and official purposes, months after coronavirus restrictions slammed the brakes on movement between the countries. Simultaneously, a "periodic commuting arrangement" will allow residents of either country who hold long-term passes for work to enter their country of employment, offering at least a degree of relief to thousands of workers.
Both programs are expected to kick off on Aug. 10, according to Malaysia's Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and his Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan.
"Eligible travellers will have to abide by the prevailing COVID-19 prevention and public health measures mutually agreed upon by both countries which include undergoing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests," they said in their statement.
"Travellers will also be expected to submit to the relevant authorities of the receiving country a controlled itinerary and adhere to this controlled itinerary during their visit."
The border closure has upended the lives of workers who commute from one nation to the other on a daily basis. The periodic commuting arrangement will help, but their lives will not exactly go back to normal just yet.
Workers will have to stay in their country of employment for at least three consecutive months. Only then will they be allowed to return home on short-term leave, after which they will be able to head back to work for another three months or more.
The statement did say that Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to develop other schemes for cross-border movement, including daily commuting, while taking into account the necessary health protocols and available medical resources in both countries.
"This will allow both sides to progressively restore cross-border people-to-people interaction and economic exchanges," the ministers said.