With roughly 400,000 Malaysians working in Singapore, the Causeway was usually packed with a good chunk of Malaysia’s working population crossing the border to work here everyday. Yesterday, all those workers had to choose whether they would stay in Malaysia and lose their job, or remain in Singapore for two weeks.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a nationwide lockdown, hoping to curb the spread of COVI-19 or the Wuhan coronavirus. No Malaysian will be allowed to leave their country for two weeks, and those include workers in Singapore.
A mad rush ensued hours before the borders closed, with workers rushing back to Johor Bahru to pack their belongings for at least a 2-week stay. PM Yassin has said that the lockdown could go even longer, especially if the virus cases do not respond to the measures they put in place.
Malaysia’s National Security Council clarified that any person regardless of nationality would not be allowed to cross the border while the Movement Control Order is in effect.
Malaysians could be seen running across the border, belongings in two, as they rushed to return before they were locked in.
Singapore mandates that employers provide accommodation
In a move to protect workers’ rights and discourage employers from terminating Malaysians from their workforce, Singaporean government has mandated that businesses receive $50 per employee per day to house, clothe, and feed them while waiting for the lockdown to finish.
While workers rushed to get their belongings, employers in Singapore were looking for accommodations, which ranged from their own homes to hotels and dormitories. If you had cash to pay, you could get rooms quickly–but it would definitely add to the company’s expenses.
Singaporeans offer support
Netizens who work alongside Malaysians everyday had words of kindness and support for their Malaysian colleagues. Singaporean website SGAG asked users to say something for their Malaysian peers.
One netizen asks people not to call the situation in Malaysia a lockdown, as people within the country can still move around, buy necessities, and even bank. Malaysians are, however, banned from attending large gatherings and even going to worship.
This commenter thanked Singaporeans for the kind words as her brother was able to come home, pack his things, and have lodgings in Singapore.
Meanwhile, this Malaysian thanked Singapore for their kind gestures.
This Singaporean was generous, saying that the Malaysians working in Singapore will feel gratitude for their sacrifice. The commenter encouraged Singaporeans to offer kind words to Malaysians in their lives.
This sympathetic commenter acknowledged the hard decision Malaysians made to be away from their families while they work and keep their jobs.
While these two people made light of the situation, referring to how Malaysians and Singaporeans have a lot of jokes about each other–just like siblings.
No lockdown in the cards for Singapore
While other countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and parts of Europe have begun to implement quarantine and lockdown measures, Singaporean officials have said that a lockdown is currently not on the government’s mind.
In a report from The Straits Times, Singaporean officials have not ruled out a similar lockdown as imposed in other countries, but that they are not looking at it as an option at the moment.