Allow Malaysian Workers Returning From Singapore To Serve Quarantine At Home

Allow Malaysian Workers Returning From Singapore To Serve Quarantine At Home

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On the 21st of July 2020, mainstream news in Malaysia reported that our Defence Minister, Dato Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Malaysians returning from overseas must serve a mandatory quarantine in designated hotels or government training centres, paying the full cost of the quarantine. 

Most Malaysians who work outside of Malaysia are working as blue collar workers in Singapore. This group of people were commuting daily between the two countries. Currently most of these workers have just resumed work after the circuit breaker in Singapore went into phase 2. Most of us have not met our family since we left home on the 17th of March 2020. Some of us have not even been able to attend to urgent family matters including delivery of our newborn child or tending to our sickly parents. 

We were delighted when the announcement of the reopening of the borders between Malaysia and Singapore were made recently. Eventhough we would love to just go home and hug our parents, spouses and children, we understood that the importance of reopening of the borders has to be done in stages as part of the efforts made to minimize the risk of the Covid 19 infections. 

However, the announcement today regarding the mandatory quarantine arrangement for Malaysians returning back to visit our families whom we have not met since 4 months ago in Johor would mean that, the little leave that we can have in Singapore would be spent in a quarantine centre in Johor. I think it is safe to assume that most employers in Singapore would not be allowing their Malaysian employees to take leave longer than 14 days. Even if we can actually get leaves longer than that it would be safe to assume that most of the days in that leave would be spent alone in a room in some quarantine centre. This is the sad reality that many Malaysians working in Singapore today have to deal with if the government does not change their stance on this matter.  

While we understand that quarantining those who come back from overseas is important, we appeal that we be allowed to be home quarantined after taking a swab test at the checkpoints that we are entering the country from. Those who are found positive can then be taken to a government designated quarantined facility to receive treatment. 

Below are the reasons for our appeal:

1. Limited leave allocations for employees working in Singapore. 
The recent joint announcement of reopening the Malaysia - Singapore borders for those who would like to travel back and forth between the two countries came in with the condition that those going to their respective country of work must spend a minimum of 3 months in that country before being allowed to return to their respective home country. The condition set, would mean that we Malaysians working in Singapore will only be able to go back to Malaysia once in every 3 months. 

As most of us don't have annual leave more than 21 days in Singapore, spending 14 days in solitary would mean that we would have a balance of 7 days to spend with our families and tending to other official matters such as banking or other government related matters. 

After exhausting our paid leaves, our next visits would basically mean that we will have to take at least 15 days of unpaid leave to spend 1 day with our families.  This will not only cause strain in our finances, what it would ultimately cause is a real strain in our relationships and families. 

2. Increased Financial Burden 

If you asked or did a survey study among the approximately 200,000 Malaysian who commute daily between Malaysia and Singapore for work, you would find that most of us are making this sacrifice of crossing the border daily in rain and shine is simply to provide and ease the financial burdens that we have as a family unit. Most of us have taken up bank loans to finance the house we bought for our families in Johor. We have also taken up other loans for our family car for safe commute and another loan for the motorcycle we use to commute from home to work daily. All for the sake of our family.

It is not a secret that many Malaysians have had some type of pay cut, or reduction in our earning here in Singapore due to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. Most of us now have been asked to find our own accommodation as companies have or will be seizing to provide temporary accommodation for their Malaysian employees who are effected by the closure of the border. On top of the financial commitments we have back home, now we are faced with a new commitment of paying for room rentals here. Please make a quick search and you would realize that a shared room would cost us on average at least RM1500.00 per month per person. This is heavy on us who are already struggling to make ends meet back home.

Now, to top all this, we Malaysians who would like to come back to visit our loved ones are expected to pay the full cost of the quarantine when we do come back. 

Most of us Malaysians can’t afford this. 15 days of unpaid leave and paying for 14 days of quarantine just to spend 1 day at home is way more than we can afford to pay. Imagine wanting to spend a week with our family. This would mean taking a 3 weeks of unpaid leave. To top all this, all this cost has to be incurred after paying for our new accommodation that we have been forced to take up recently in Singapore as most employers have or will stop subsidizing for our accommodation or providing us a place to stay. WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS. 

Basically our income has decreased or stagnated, our overheads have increased and now visiting our families will mean salary cuts and having additional financial burden on our shoulders causing financial strain to our families. 

What We Seek
We appeal to the Malaysian government, to re-look at the decision made by the Malaysian government pertaining to the conditions set for us to go back to visit our families that was announced today by Dato Ismail Sabri Yaakob. We seek the understanding of the government of Malaysia to understand the difficulties we Malaysians are facing here in Singapore and give us a more humanitarian solution to the woes we are facing and not add the burden on our shoulders. 

It would be easy to tell us to just pack our bags and resign from our jobs here in Singapore and just come back and work in Malaysia. But we all know that we will never be able to earn the salaries that we earn in Singapore for the jobs we do here back home. 

Mr. Minister Sir,