One of World’s Busiest Borders to Reopen After Virus Closure
Immigration clearance counters stand in the departure hall at Terminal 4 (T4) of Changi Airport in Singapore, on Dec. 13, 2018. (Photographer: Nicky Loh/Bloomberg)

One of World’s Busiest Borders to Reopen After Virus Closure

One of the world’s busiest border crossings is slowly reopening, months after it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Singapore and Malaysia will implement a reciprocal green lane for travel across their border, which some 300,000 people traverse by land each day. Officials are aiming to start the program August 10, facilitating travel for essential business and official purposes, according to a statement Tuesday from foreign affairs ministries in both nations.

The news could come as a reprieve to two countries trying to safely reopen economies hammered by disruptions from the pandemic. Singapore plunged into recession last quarter as an extended lockdown shuttered businesses and decimated retail spending. The re-opening of some travel comes after border lockdowns were imposed starting in March.

“It’s not yet clear to me, given the health protocol and applications, how many people will actually be allowed in, but it does suggest both economies are opening up and it will strengthen” any recovery, said Chua Hak Bin, senior economist at Maybank Kim Eng Research Pte. “Malaysia will be eager for the workers to resume work, while Singapore will be happy to address the labor shortages.”

Here are more details of the arrangement:

  • Eligible travelers will have to abide by prevailing Covid-19 prevention and public-health measures agreed by both countries, and will have to submit a controlled itinerary and stick to it
  • Residents who hold long-term business or work passes in the other country will be allowed to enter for work
  • After three months in their country of work, residents can return home for short-term leave, then re-enter for another three months
  • The countries agreed to develop other appropriate plans for cross-border movement, including a daily cross-border commuting proposal for work purposes

Beside the land crossing via bridges, a one-hour flight linking the countries is the world’s second-busiest international route measured by seat capacity, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd. Planes made 29,993 trips between Singapore and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur last year, OAG said in a report, the equivalent of about 82 flights a day.

Maybank’s Chua said the arrangement should help relieve one of the major choke points on Singapore’s economy, which recorded its worst performance ever in the second quarter, contracting an annualized 41.2% from the prior three months. Still, he added, Singapore can expect to see only about one-third to one-half of the previous cross-border traffic, as long queues may discourage some travelers.

Singapore said last month it also had agreed with China to ease quarantine requirements for business and official travelers.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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