Thursday, December 08, 2022

Thousands of workers return home as Malaysia fully reopens

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia ( Associated Press) – Thousands of Malaysians working in Singapore returned home on Friday as Malaysia fully reopened its borders after more than two years of pandemic shutdown.

Several people had been standing in line at the border since late Thursday and had crossed over on foot or by car and motorbike at midnight. National news agency Bernama said fireworks along with slogans of “Welcome Back” could be heard in the background as families waited for their loved ones on the Johor Causeway connecting the countries.

The Malaysia-Singapore land border, one of the busiest in the world, was partially reopened on November 29, but with strict rules limited to only 1,500 people per day. More than 350,000 people crossed the causeway daily before the closure, mostly Malaysians working in Singapore.

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said in a statement that more than 11,000 passengers passed through the checkpoint early Friday. Malaysian officials estimate that around 400,000 people are expected to cross the border within the first week.

With most of its population vaccinated, Malaysia has lifted remaining coronavirus restrictions on businesses as it moves to restore pre-pandemic life and revive its economy.

New daily cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron strain have risen to nearly 20,000, but less than 1% are classified as severe.

There will be no quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists, but they will need to undergo a PCR test two days before arrival. At Kuala Lumpur International Airport, staff dressed in traditional costumes greeted visitors. The first regular AirAsia flight from Jakarta in two years was given a water cannon salute upon landing.

The Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, the largest on the continent, said 12 flights from within Asia arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, marking the revival of its international operations from March 2020.

“Certainly it’s starting to feel a little bit normal again,” said Peter Miller, an American expatriate who arrived with his family for work. “There’s still some testing to be done here and there, but … everyone is learning how to deal with the new phase of the virus.”

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