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Coronavirus: Malaysia-Singapore land border reopens

JOHOR BAHRU, MALAYSIA – Malaysians working in Singapore celebrated a joyful reunion with their loved ones after returning to their homeland on Monday after reopening part of the land border that was closed near two years due to the pandemic.

Buses carrying fully vaccinated passengers cross the Causeway Bridge connecting Singapore island to peninsular Malaysia, with strict measures in place including pre-departure and arrival COVID-19 testing.

Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted that a COVID-19 case had been detected during an autopsy in the southern state of Johor, but did not elaborate. “As we safely reopen borders, there will be positive cases at the points of entry. Risk assessment, isolation and monitoring of close contacts will become the norm,” he said. “.

In the initial phase, only 1,440 visitors who had to be citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders were allowed from each side per day. The Causeway was one of the busiest land borders in the world before the pandemic hit. Air travel also reopened on Monday with fewer restrictions, allowing anyone who is fully vaccinated to travel between the two countries without quarantine.

“It’s been over a year, I have never met her and when I see her today, I am very happy, I am very happy,” retiree Siva Ganesan said after greeting his wife, Uma Devi Balakrishnan, at the wharf. bus in the southern state of Johor. His wife worked as a sweeper in Singapore and was stranded when the border was closed.

A Malaysian man kissed and hugged his baby for the first time he met, while another woman drowned in tears in her father’s arms. More than 100,000 Malaysians are believed to be stranded in the island nation after the border was closed in March 2020.

“It’s surreal, it doesn’t feel real at all because it’s been a long time since I’ve been home,” said Malaysian Cheong Weng Yin. “I was very nervous until I came here.”

Across the border, Chua Pei Sze and her two daughters, aged 10 and 7, lined up for the first time on the first bus to Malaysia. “We can finally get my daughters to see their grandmothers… video calls are not enough,” said the 43-year-old who works in the shipping industry.

Kavin Raj, 24, said he would surprise his family because they didn’t know he had earned a ticket on the first bus ride. “First thing, let me say, I will have a very good meal in Malaysia,” he said excitedly.

More than 350,000 people crossed the Causeway daily before it was closed, mostly Malaysians working in Singapore due to the favorable exchange rate.

The two countries said land border border restrictions would be gradually eased to include general tourists and other means of transport besides buses. A second land link is also expected to be restored soon. Singapore has vaccinated 85% of the population and nearly 80% of Malaysia.

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Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur and Toh Ee Ming in Singapore contributed to this report.

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