SINGAPORE: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has assured Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the flow of goods and cargo between Singapore and Malaysia, including food supplies, would continue, Mr Lee said on Tuesday (Mar 17).
Mr Lee’s remarks came after Malaysia announced it would bar citizens from going overseas and foreigners from entering the country for about two weeks starting Wednesday.
The restrictions are part of a movement control order established by the Malaysian government to prevent further spread of the COVID-19, said Mr Muhyiddin on Monday night.
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Long queues were observed in several supermarkets after the announcement was made on Monday.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said he discussed the situation with Mr Muhyiddin earlier on Tuesday, adding he did not find the announcement “surprising as many other countries have already imposed similar lockdowns”.
“I told him that I understood the reasons why he had made this move, and wished Malaysia success in containing the outbreak,” said Mr Lee. “I was happy to hear his reassurance that the flow of goods and cargo between Singapore and Malaysia, including food supplies, would continue.”
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Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said later on Tuesday that Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to work out the operational details together so that goods, cargo and food supplies “continue to flow” between both countries.
This was after discussions with Malaysian Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and Johor Menteri Besar Ir Haji Hasni Mohammad, he said in a Facebook post.
“Malaysia has taken these extraordinary measures to prevent the COVID-19 epidemic from getting out of hand. We understand their need to do so,” he said.
Malaysia, the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia so far, has had a total of 553 infections as of Monday.
More than 300 cases were linked to a religious gathering with 16,000 in attendance, including people from Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia.
Mr Lee said Malaysians living in Johor but working in Singapore would have to comply with the lockdown.
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As this will prevent them from commuting daily “at least for the time being”, Mr Lee said Singapore is “working out arrangements with our companies to help these Malaysian workers stay in Singapore temporarily, if they would like to do so”.
The two leaders also agreed to appoint senior ministers Teo Chee Hean and Ismail Sabri to coordinate joint responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, “particularly on measures where we can work together, or where the actions of one country will affect the other”.
“They are already in touch, but it may take a couple of days for arrangements to be worked out and to settle down,” said Mr Lee.
“Meanwhile, I am happy to see that in the supermarkets, while the queues are longer than usual, people are taking it in their stride and only buying what they need.
“We need not worry, as we have prepared for such an eventuality, and have plans in place to cope. Glad that Singaporeans are calm, united and resilient as we solve the problems at hand,” the prime minister added.