Foreign Minister Saifuddin hopes Malaysia and Singapore will intensify efforts at Causeway to tackle COVID-19


VIENTIANE: Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Thursday (Feb 20) said he hopes Malaysia and Singapore will intensify cooperation at the busy Causeway in an effort to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Saifuddin said he had an informal meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the sidelines of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease.

“I hope that officials in both countries will communicate and intensify their cooperation in handling the COVID-19 transmission at the Causeway.

“If we don’t do it properly, it will spread. Therefore, we need to monitor the Causeway together,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.

The cross-border movement of commuters at the Causeway is estimated to be 250,000 a day.

Both countries have earlier decided to form a joint working group, co-chaired by the respective deputy health ministers, to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. The first meeting is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.

One of the focus areas of the working group is cross-border case screening and management.

Twenty-two people have been tested positive for COVID-19 in Malaysia. At least seven cases are said to have travelled to Singapore.  

ASEAN foreign ministers pose during an emergency meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang on

Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers pose during an emergency meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the coronavirus outbreak in Vientiane, Laos February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Phoonsab Thevongsa

Mr Saifuddin also said ASEAN member states have offered to help China solve the COVID-19 problem and expressed their confidence that China could successfully cope with the outbreak.

He said the meeting at Vientiane, co-charged by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines Teodoro Locsin Junior, marked the ASEAN member countries’ commitment to share information and enhance cooperation in the fight against the virus.

READ: Upbeat Chinese foreign minister says COVID-19 control efforts ‘are working’

With the outbreak expected to continue in the next several months, all ASEAN countries and China have agreed to devise a strategy to reduce economic impact, the minister said.

“We understand that the virus will continue for several months.

“Therefore, we need to overcome the (challenges) of the economic issues, especially in the field of tourism,” Mr Saifuddin said.

“We need to have a mutual understanding, especially in terms of limiting tourist arrivals. No point for one country to be firm while others aren’t,” he added.


Separately, Mr Saifuddin said Malaysia will bring home a second batch of citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, next Tuesday.

 “We would like to thank (the Chinese government) for the assistance provided to bring the Malaysians back from Wuhan.

“Another trip (to bring home Malaysians) will be on February 25,” he said.

However, he did not reveal the number of Malaysians who will be brought home this time.

Malaysians evacuated from Wuhan completed quarantine

All 107 Malaysians and their non-Malaysian family members, who were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan on Feb 4, completed the quarantine process on Feb 18. (Photo: Malaysia’s Ministry of Health)

A total of 107 individuals, comprising Malaysians and their non-Malaysian family members, were earlier flown home from Wuhan on Feb 4.

Two of them tested positive for COVID-19 and have since recovered.

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