balakrishnan Hishamuddin Malaysia Singapore Foreign ministers travel

Singapore and Malaysia to allow travel on compassionate grounds from May 17

Travel on compassionate grounds between Singapore and Malaysia will be allowed from May 17. This news comes amid Covid-19 restrictions that ban the bulk of the cross-border movement.

Both governments will release details of such travel arrangements later. These will include steps like testing visitors for the coronavirus and the need for quarantine, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Sunday (May 2).

Dr Balakrishnan announced his Malaysian counterpart, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. DS Hishamuddin is here on a two-day official visit to Singapore till Sunday.

Mr Hishammuddin said that the compassionate grounds would refer to situations when people on either side request to travel across the border to be with those who are critically ill or to attend funerals.

Dr Balakrishnan said that the move is necessary due to the “extensive ties” that the two countries share.

“When a family crisis occurs, people want to get together. And therefore, bearing in mind this very special close relationship between the people of Singapore and the people of Malaysia, it is necessary to have schemes like this,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“So we’ll announce further details on the types of tests and quarantine arrangements which will be necessary to operationalise this scheme.”

Potential Air Travel Bubble for Malaysia and Singapore

The two leaders also discussed a potential air travel bubble between Singapore and Malaysia.

They also talked about mutually recognising vaccine certificates to facilitate cross-border travel in the future. Both sides will issue digital vaccine certificates, noted Mr Hishammuddin. He added that both countries’ digital contact tracing tools would need to be compatible with each other.

A joint statement from the two ministers on Sunday said that they welcomed an agreement reached by the Singapore Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation on the mutual technical verification of health certificates issued in Singapore and Malaysia.

The move to allow travel on compassionate grounds is the latest in a series of agreements that the two countries have made to cope with the effects of Covid-19.

In their joint statement, the ministers expressed their satisfaction. Despite the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral relations and cooperation remained intact and strong. The uninterrupted movement of goods between both countries demonstrates this cooperation. Lack of travel has never hindered the relationship of both countries.

Dr Balakrishnan pointed out that Singapore and Malaysia have never wholly closed off their borders. Both countries still allow essential supply chains carrying medication, food and other supplies to flow.

“Even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge both our countries. Rest assured we will work very closely together. We will support each other, and our people-to-people ties will be protected and will be nurtured,” he said.

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