Singapore—Many Malaysians who work in Singapore are not planning on coming home for Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 12 and 13 this year, reported The Malaysian Insight on Tuesday (Jan 12).
The rising number of Covid-19 infections, as well as the high cost of going on quarantine, are factors that Malaysians have considered in the choice not to go home.
Malaysia was put under a state of emergency on Tuesday morning, one day after a meeting between Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and King Al-Sultan Abdullah at the national palace to discuss the national situation with regards to the pandemic.
In a statement, palace comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the state of emergency could last until Aug 1, depending on the number of people infected.
“During a 45-minute face-to-face session starting at 5.30pm yesterday, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin presented the results of the Cabinet Meeting on the proposed implementation of the proclamation of a state of emergency as a proactive measure to curb and address the positive COVID-19 daily cases that have continuously reached four figures since last December,” read the statement.
The announcement from the palace comes on top of one that came from the Prime Minister the day before, when he said that Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Sabah – as well as the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan, would be placed under a Movement Control Order (MCO) yet again from Jan 13 until the 26th.
This means that people are not allowed to travel between states, and even within districts for the areas placed under MCO.
All the more reason for Malaysians in Singapore to stay where they are for the moment, despite Chinese New Year being a traditionally popular time of the year for people to come home.
The Malaysian Insight quotes Wong Wai Theng, 35, as saying that he and his brother, who both work in Singapore, are staying for the holidays.
“My brother is worried that it will be troublesome to re-enter Singapore and advised me not to return. So, I have decided to wait until the vaccine arrives in Malaysia before making plans.”
While Mr Wong used to be able to commute to and from Singapore from Johor Bahru daily, he has not been back to Malaysia since March of last year, shortly before a country-wide MCO was imposed to prevent the spread of infections.
He has not seen his parents for two years, and has also had to postpone a proposal to his girlfriend back in Malaysia.
“This pandemic has made me realise that I should cherish every moment of separation and the people around me,” he said.
Casual travellers and tourists are still not allowed to cross the border between Singapore and Malaysia, but those who travel for work have been able to do so, provide they comply with testing and quarantine regulations.
Under the periodic commuting arrangement (PCA), Malaysians with permanent residency (PR) status who are employed in Singapore may apply to return to their home country periodically.
As for Singaporeans who return, they are required to present a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old, and must quarantine for a fortnight when they arrive.
Upon entering Malaysia, they are required to quarantine for 10 days.
A Malaysian PR holder is quoted in The Malaysian Insight as saying that going home would cost him S$2,625 for quarantining in a hotel as well as testing fees.
“It would take a total of 24 days to quarantine, back and forth, not including the time spent at home. The annual leave is not enough to cover the trip,” said 40 year old Eng Kok Siang, who is spending Chinese New Year away from home for the first time.
A number of his friends agree, including oil rig worker Tan Wen Wei, 39, who also said the trip home would set him back by more than S$2,000.
And although he misses his family, it is for them that he is working hard.
“My child is asking when I will be returning, but I will not be doing so this year,” he said.
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