SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore and Malaysia re-opened one of the world’s busiest land borders on Monday, allowing vaccinated travellers to make the crossing after nearly two years of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sudden closure of the border in March 2020 left tens of thousands people stranded on both sides, separated from families and fearing for their jobs.
As many as 300,000 Malaysians commuted daily to wealthy city-state Singapore before the pandemic.
Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is also due to make his first official visit as premier to Singapore on Monday.
Under the new arrangement, up to 1,440 travellers from each side can travel if they hold citizenship, permanent residency or long-term visas in the destination country, without undergoing quarantine, according to guidelines published by the Singapore government.
Travellers must test negative for COVID-19 before departure, and Malaysia also requires travellers to pass on-arrival COVID-19 test. Singapore on Sunday followed suit by requiring on-arrival test due to concerns over the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.
A vaccinated air travel lane between the two countries also started on Monday.
Singapore has vaccinated 85% of its entire population, while Malaysia has jabbed around 80%.
Singapore, with an aging population of 5.5 million, relies heavily on Malaysians living in the southern state of Johor, which is connected to Singapore by land, to staff businesses ranging from restaurants to semiconductor manufacturing.
Singapore reported 747 locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the lowest tally since mid September. Malaysia reported 4,239 cases on Sunday, the smallest number since early November.
(Reporting by Chen Lin; Editing by John Geddie and Ed Davies)