Are you missing the Causeway crawl?

On Day 309 of the Movement Control Order, with the border still closed between Singapore and Malaysia, vehicular traffic between the two nations is limited only to delivery trucks and essential travellers with travel permits.


View of the Johor Baru skyline from midway
of the Causeway into Johor Baru

And this was only at specific times of the day. Otherwise, the sky-cameras (Checkpoint.sg) would give us clear views of the causeway, looking eerily free from any traffic!


On 1 April 2020 – April Fool’s Day – I was tickled when someone with a sense of humour at Checkpoint.sg posted a view of the causeway pictured with an elephant – yes, that large animal with a long trunk – on the causeway!


An elephant crossing the empty causeway, certainly caused a stir among those of us who regularly checked the sky-cams for views of the causeway and the Second Link.


Inching our way through the Johor Baru side
of the checkpoint into the Causeway

I remember sharing a laugh over this amusing scene with my friend, Jeevan Singh, the Singapore Consul-General in Johor Baru.


We also shared our concerns for the many families who were separated on either side of the causeway due to the border-closing since March 18, 2020 and fervently hoped that the situation would improve soon.


In fact, my cousin Bernard and his wife who are based in Singapore for work, welcomed their first-born during the 2020 lockdown. However, the baby’s grandparents in Johor Baru have yet to meet their grandson in person.


The proud grandparents have no alternative but to “see” the baby only through video calls. I too, have only been introduced to the child via video chats. But it is still a consolation that Bernard and his young family are staying together.


Joining the queue to crawl across the entire
length of the Causeway into Singapore!
For Malaysian couples who were expecting their first-born but live separated in either country, their babies are now safely delivered, the mothers comfortably completed their confinement month, and are lovingly nurturing their children.


But the fathers have yet to meet their newborns in person to give them a much-desired warm cuddle.


For now, these parents must settle for the next best thing, to see each other and their babies through video chats.


As the months of separation lengthened, some families who longed to see their loved ones in person discovered the pain of being, “So near and yet so far.”


Doing the familiar causeway crawl into JB

Their longing to see each other in person was so acute that they found strategic spots on the Johor coast and arranged to literally “see” their loved ones who were standing across the Straits, somewhere in Woodlands on the Singapore coast.


As you know, Johor Baru, the capital city of Johor state, is separated from Singapore by a causeway that spans the Johor Straits and this border crossing in the South is among the busiest in the world.


For months since the border closing between the two nations since last March 18, the causeway was virtually clear of the daily congestion of vehicles that used to ply between Johor and Singapore.


Another view of the Johor Baru skyline
from the Causeway

Daily commuters used to make their way across the causeway for school and work in Singapore or come to Johor Baru on day trips or family visits.


Remember: Malaya and Singapore were once one country and many families have relatives on both sides of the causeway.


While in JB, visitors would also use personal services like hairdressers, nail spas, opticians, dentists, and the equivalent services for their cars and motorbikes.


Undeterred by the traffic congestion and hours of waiting in long queues, Singaporeans would cross the causeway at all times of the day or night for food, shopping, and entertainment in JB.


And for the first time in modern history, this daily commute between Singapore and JB was impossible due to the Singapore-Malaysia border closure.


The stark absence of the usual traffic on the causeway is simply saddening, not only for families who are separated but also because the regular support to the local economy had also ceased.


After more than 300 days since the border closure, the familiar daily traffic congestion on the causeway seems like a thing of the past.


From a quiet causeway to the silent city streets in JB, clearly free from Singapore-registered vehicles, the absence of Singaporean visitors is acutely felt in Johor.


While this silence may be deeply depressing, mainly for merchants who serve a regular Singaporean clientele, it is a good time to reflect, to count our blessings, to accept responsibility and to be disciplined.


News reports received from around the world, showed that it is not the sole responsibility of the authorities to curb the virus infections.


Still patiently waiting in the queue to
crawl across the Causeway back into JB!

The experiences in New Zealand and the US clearly proved that sound authority in partnership with the people, had effectively reduced the rate of infections.


So I thought some shots of the congested causeway should trigger thoughts of the familiar causeway jam and reassure us that better days are ahead when the Covid19 global pandemic is brought under control.


Meanwhile, we can just reminisce on the experience of inching our way from the JB checkpoint all the way into Woodlands and doing the famous causeway crawl into JB…


From our experience in the first MCO, we know that bringing the number of infections down begins with each one of us.


So, let us do our part – one person at a time – to break the chain of infection and help the Health authorities do their jobs more effectively.


It is simple, we must OBEY the given guidelines to stay safe. Go out ONLY for medical reasons and grocery shopping, while the rest of us should just STAY HOME.