Malaysia’s borders to reopen on Apr 1 as country begins transition to COVID-19 endemic phase: PM Ismail Sabri
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will fully reopen its borders on Apr 1 as the country begins to transition to the COVID-19 endemic phase, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday (Mar 8).
Speaking at a press conference, he explained that with this development, international travellers entering Malaysia would only need to have valid travel documents to enter and exit the country, and Malaysians can travel freely to other countries with similar open borders.
He added that foreign travellers will no longer need to apply via the MyTravelPass mechanism, and only had to download the MySejahtera contact tracing application.
He said: “Taking into account the Omicron variant which is still in our country and other countries, there are some mandatory steps for both Malaysians and travellers.”
For those who are fully vaccinated, there is no need to undergo any quarantine. They only need to undergo a COVID-19 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test two days before departure and a professional COVID-19 rapid test kit-antigen (RTK-Ag) test within 24 hours after arrival in Malaysia.
“For those who are not fully vaccinated, or unable to receive the vaccine due to health reasons, the health minister will detail further Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on this tomorrow,” Mr Ismail Sabri added.
For countries that have not fully reopened their borders such as Indonesia and Singapore, Malaysians can utilise the vaccinated travel lanes that had been agreed on between Putrajaya and the relevant countries, the prime minister added.
In response to CNA's queries, Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said it is working with its Malaysian counterparts to expand the land vaccinated travel lane.
"This includes allowing vaccinated travellers to cross the land border via other transport modes. We will share more details when ready," the ministry added.
Over the weekend, the prime minister said that borders would reopen soon to allow people to meet during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations in May.
He was also quoted by national news agency Bernama that Putrajaya was in the process of implementing land vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) with Brunei and Thailand.
On Monday, Tourism Minister Nancy Shukri reportedly said that the international border reopening would include Malaysia’s land checkpoints with Singapore.
Both the Johor Causeway and Second Link at Gelang Patah would be reopened simultaneously, she said, facilitating travel by Singaporeans to Malaysia.
Malaysia currently has land and air VTLs with Singapore.
Last month, Malaysia’s National Recovery Council (NRC), led by Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, recommended that the country should fully open its borders by March to support economic recovery from the pandemic.
During the ongoing campaigning for the Johor state election which will be held on Saturday, various coalitions and political parties, including Perikatan Nasional, Pakatan Harapan and the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance have called for a full reopening of the Johor-Singapore borders.
BROAD EASING OF RESTRICTIONS WITHIN MALAYSIA
During the Tuesday press conference, Mr Ismail Sabri also announced other curbs that will be eased under the “Transition To Endemic Phase” from Apr 1.
Limits on operating hours for business premises would be lifted, he said, and operators can run their businesses according to their licensing permits.
“This means you can all eat at restaurants after 12am, especially during the month of Ramadan which is coming soon,” he said.
Mosque prayers and religious worship in other non-Muslim religious venues can also be carried out without physical distancing.
However, this SOP would be subject to the respective states’ Islamic religious authorities, while non-Muslim houses of worship will have to take direction from the National Unity Ministry’s Unit for Other Religions.
Limits on employee capacity, which depended on their vaccine coverage will also be lifted. Interstate travel will be also allowed for all individuals regardless of their vaccination status, the prime minister added.
The current 50 per cent capacity limit on large gatherings, such as wedding receptions will also no longer apply, although he added that physical distancing was still important and encouraged.
At the same time, procedures such as mask-wearing in public places are still in place, along with checking-in to closed-in areas with traffic, using the MySejahtera app.
“It is important for me to note, this is the exit strategy to enable us to return to near-normal lives after nearly two years of struggling with COVID-19,” Mr Ismail Sabri said.
He noted that this was a temporary phase before the country moved to the Endemic Phase, which he said was subject to an announcement that can only be made by the World Health Organisation.
As of Mar 7, Malaysia reported 26,856 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s cumulative cases since the pandemic first appeared in the country to 3,649,463.