On 21st July, Defence Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Malaysians returning from overseas must serve their mandatory quarantine at designated hotels or government training centres. They would also have to bear the full cost of the quarantine. This comes after a few double-digit increases in the past week with several new clusters being detected.
However, Malaysians working in Singapore are not happy with this move as many of them have not met their family since the Movement Control Order was implemented on 17th March. This means that once the borders between Johor and Singapore are reopened on 10th August, returnees would have to spend two weeks in quarantine centres, leaving them very little time with their families before they have to return to work in Singapore.
A petition on Change.org has since been created, urging authorities to “allow Malaysian workers returning from Singapore to serve quarantine at home”.
Vignesh Nowuram, the person who started the petition, explained that “most employers in Singapore would not be allowing their Malaysian employees to take leave longer than 14 days” and even if employees are allowed to take longer leaves, “most of the days in that leave would be spent alone in a room in some quarantine centre.”
He then listed the reasons for the appeal:
1. Limited leave allocations for employees working in Singapore.
The petition refers to the recent announcement about the reopening of borders between Malaysia and Singapore, which states that “those going to their respective country of work must spend a minimum of three 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 three 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 seven days to spend with our families and tending to other official matters such as banking or other government-related matters.”
Vignesh then brings up the concern of returnees having to take unpaid leaves in their next visits, which will cause strains in regards to finance, relationships and families.
2. Increased Financial Burden
Vignesh goes on to explain that approximately 200,000 Malaysians who commute daily between Malaysia and Singapore for work are making the sacrifice of crossing the border daily to provide for their families.
“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,” he says in the petition.
He then says that many Malaysians’ income had to be reduced or had to take some type of pay cut due to the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 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 affected 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.”
Additionally, he explains that Malaysians who are returning would have to pay the full cost of the quarantine, which adds to the financial burden that they already have.
“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 3 weeks of unpaid leave. To top all this, all this cost has to be incurred after paying for the 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.”
Vignesh then urges the Malaysian government to reconsider their decision and hopes that the government will understand the difficulties Malaysians are facing in Singapore.
The petition has since gained over 2,300 signatures at the time of writing.
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