The long-awaited re-opening of the Singapore – Malaysia border is finally here as we take strides towards living with Covid-19. The question is though – is this the right way forward or should we stay within our bubble unless travelling is necessary?
IS COVID-19 JUST LIKE ANOTHER COMMON FLU?
The world gradually revises its Covid-19 strategy to live with the virus as an endemic like influenza. However, it’s inevitable that we still live with a little paranoia.
Some parts of the world have started to treat it as a common flu, neglecting their SOPs and face masks. Live life to the fullest, they said.
In other parts of the world, they still hold tightly onto getting their booster doses for their people, extra precautions when involving with crowds, etc. Life is precious and we are responsible in taking care of it, they said.
It doesn’t matter how an individual decide to live their life, the fact remains that the Covid-19 cannot be treated as a common flu despite the world declares to treat it as an endemic.
According to The Straits Times, Singapore, the knowledge of influenza (common flu) is deemed constantly changing, hence, yearly vaccinations are recommended. However, Covid-19 is a ‘newbie’ in the scene.
Since the traits rapidly change from a short period of time, new factors come into picture which results to more experiment and observation required. Hence, scientists state that more studies on the Covid-19 traits are still required for them to determine if the people can treat it as common flu in the near future or not. See: Omicron virus.
CAN WE TRYING CURB THE RATE OF INFECTION WITH VACCINES?
There have been many talks regarding the potency of vaccines – does it really help? Or is it a worldwide initiation of a rallying cry to instil the thought of us getting protected means being safer from the virus?
If you were to ask around, there’s at least 1 out of 10 people who questions the benefits of the developed vaccine. You’ll hear conversations like – “The government is implementing this to inject DNA chips into our blood to control us”, “The side effects of such vaccines are dangerous and can mutate our cells”, “How can a vaccine be developed so fast – is it safe?”, and many more.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that even though the Covid-19 is still something like a wildfire amongst us, being vaccinated is the safest way to help build protection within your body. The world has encountered numerous types of influenza for the past decades. Many kinds of experiments have been conducted as a way to curb the disease to attack humankind again.
With the current technology the world has at its disposal, it is not a surprise when the scientist managed to come up with a vaccination for Covid-19 quicker than their predecessor.
The professional can attest that even though you are vaccinated, you are still exposed to contract the Covid-19 disease. However, the aftermath can be much tolerable compared to those that have yet to complete their vaccine doses.
According to BBC News, the death toll amongst those who have completed their 2 doses of vaccination are rare compared to those who have yet to complete it or decided against it in England. Other countries such as Malaysia and New Zealand states similar fact that the death rate is declining amongst Covid-19 patients who have completed 2 doses of their vaccination.
HELLO OMICRON, HELLO TRAVEL?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), there is a new Covid-19 variant detected at the end of November 2021 - Omicron. The research parties in South Africa and around the world is still conducting studies to better understand many aspects of the variant to find ways to curb it from spreading uncontrollably.
Currently, the preliminary data suggests that the hospitalisation rate in South Africa is increasing, however, it is yet to be determined whether it is directly due to the Omicron variant or not.
The Ministry of Health in Singapore has release press statement stating that a potentially big wave of infections are to be expected as they are in preparation for the Omicron variant by tightening the boarder rules and regulation.
One of the options to reduce the infection rate is by urgently pressing on their booster vaccination program to enhance protection against the disease. Malaysia’s Minister of Health, Khairy Jamaludin has also stated something similar for the nation to continue its booster vaccination for all age to speed up. By getting the booster dose, that is when a person is deemed to have completed its vaccination.
Despite the fear of contracting the disease, both countries decided to launch the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) starting on 29th November 2021. The initial quota is 1,500 daily travellers with weekly increments to follow.
The VTL has been one of the route other nations opted to start paving ways for quarantine-free travel between two countries. It allows fully vaccinated travellers to travel without the need for self-quarantine. However, there are other precautions taken such as mandatory PCR test 48 hours before boarding the plane and another PCR test after landing in a foreign country.
Other measures taken is the 7 days self-test and clinical test to ensure the traveller is safe from any Covid-19 traits. Singapore and Malaysia have both battled disastrous surges in Covid-19 cases earlier this year, fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant. Hence, both nations pursued aggressive zero-Covid policies by imposing strict lockdowns and closing borders.
However, as most nations are moving towards 80% above of adult fully vaccinated, it is deemed safe to move forward with recovering the economy for each nation. Hence, implementing the VTL route is important to revive back the world’s economy stages by stages.
VTL IS GOOD TO BOOST EMPLOYEES’ MORALE
The Channel News Asia has stated that the VTL with Malaysia may cause slight delays in the upcoming or ongoing construction projects within Singapore but the employers are determined to boost its employees morale to ensure smooth journey for the projects in the long run.
It is well known that many Malaysian workers were stuck in Singapore since Malaysia first implemented its movement control order (MCO) in March 2020. They have not returned home to their families due to border restrictions and stringent entry requirements from both sides.
The VTL agreement between Singapore and Malaysia has been a fresh breeze for the Malaysians worker as they are finally free to travel quarantine free to their families. Constructions Companies in Singapore are bracing themselves for a dip in manpower but said it’ll bring a better good for the long run.
Other employees who do not have links with Malaysia is expected to work more in order to cover their colleagues’ duties while they are on leave. Other Companies who do not deal with field works are moving forward to implementing work-from-home basis to avoid delays of tasks within the management side.
While the resumption of cross border travel may potentially exacerbate the current manpower crunch, the impact is unlikely to be long lasting. The VTL is also expected to bring more opportunities for labour to come into Singapore, especially from Malaysia candidates, and vice versa.
This is because, by having the VTL, Malaysians are able to go back on a more regular basis instead of being stuck in one country for a period of time. Hence, the VTL program is said to bring more opportunities – both from hiring business perspectives.
VTL BETWEEN MALAYSIA AND SINGPOARE WILL STIMULATE POST-COVID ECONOMIC RECOVERY
According to the Johor Bahru Minister, the implementation of VTL will act as a catalyst to spur the post-Covid economic recovery in both Singapore and Malaysia.
Looking back to the days before Covid-19, Singapore has been the biggest investor in Johor. They would travel for a short “food trip” or “grocery trip” to Johor which directly contribute towards the local economy.
The VTL program allows both nations to rekindle the ties that were put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it brings much relief to the citizens in both countries following the closing of borders almost 20 months ago.
An analyst from Singapore Business review has mentioned that not only benefit the tourism sector for both countries but it will also boost the airport’s productivity by 10%.
Singapore makes up 39% of Malaysia’s visitors which will directly increase around 5% of the gross domestic products which is profiting from the quarantine free travel.
Malaysia is also expected to receive an increase of foreign direct investments considering Singapore has made up almost 14% of its total investment in year 2020.
2022 – A NEW BEGINNING
Everyone has faced tremendous hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only some lost their family members to the disease, but some lost their jobs, morale, and everything we can never imagine.
Some extremists may say the VTL program will only lead to disaster because it opens a gate to spreading the disease more. However, we cannot be selfish in determining the greater good.
The government is not only looking towards restoring the local economy but also welcoming those stranded in our neighbouring country for almost 2 years with an open heart. These people will not only meet their families after so long but also indirectly boost the local economy for the better.
People in Malaysia now also have the options to start applying for employment in Singapore which the country welcomes with an open hand. The benefit of VTL is not only towards the economy but also socio-economy. A happier person leads to a better nation.