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Malaysia and Singapore reopen borders despite Omicron concerns

After nearly two years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore and Malaysia reopened one of the world’s busiest land borders on Monday, allowing vaccinated travellers to cross.

Despite the joy of being reunited with family and friends, there were fears that the border would be closed again owing to the new coronavirus strain Omicron.

Travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before leaving. Malaysia also mandates an on-arrival test, a move Singapore made on Sunday in response to worries about the Omicron variant.

On his first official visit to Singapore as Prime Minister, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was greeted by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at one of the land border crossings.

Before the outbreak, up to 300,000 Malaysians commuted to Singapore on a daily basis.

The border’s abrupt closure in March 2020 stranded tens of thousands on both sides, separating families and causing worries about their jobs.

According to Singapore government standards, up to 1,440 visitors from either side can cross the land border each day without being quarantined if they have citizenship, permanent residency or long-term visas in the destination country.

On Monday, a new air travel route between the two countries opened.

Singapore has vaccinated 85 percent of its people, while Malaysia has vaccinated roughly 80 percent of its population.

With a population of 5.5 million people, Singapore relies significantly on Malaysians from the state of Johor in the south to staff enterprises ranging from restaurants to semiconductor manufacturing.

On Sunday, Singapore reported 747 locally acquired COVID-19 cases, the lowest number since late September. On Sunday, Malaysia recorded 4,239 cases, the lowest number since early November.


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