KUALA LUMPUR: Two years after Malaysia closed its borders on Mar 18, 2020 in the wake of a global pandemic, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the country will reopen fully on Apr 1.
Mr Ismail Sabri said in a press conference on Tuesday (Mar 8) that this reopening is part of its “Transitioning to Endemicity” phase. In line with that, the government will also lift a slew of domestic restrictions on business operating hours, employee capacity as well as capacity limits on mosque prayers and other houses of worship.
However, given COVID-19’s Omicron variant spread in both Malaysia and internationally, Malaysians and foreign travellers entering the country will need to adhere to some protocols, although restrictions have been loosened.
Here’s what travellers need to know about the borders reopening:
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH PROTOCOLS FOR FOREIGNERS ENTERING MALAYSIA?
Beginning Apr 1, foreigners entering Malaysia with valid travel documents do not need to undergo quarantine, so long as they are fully vaccinated.
The requirement for foreigners to apply to enter Malaysia using the MyTravelPass application will also be lifted.
Instead, they only need to download and activate the MySejahtera contact tracing app and fill up a pre-departure form in the app.
Travellers need to undergo a COVID-19 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test two days before departure, and another professional COVID-19 antigen rapid test (RTK-Ag) within 24 hours after arrival.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin explained in a press conference on Wednesday that travellers who are not fully vaccinated or unvaccinated will need to undergo a five-day quarantine after arriving in Malaysia. This is shortened from the current requirement of 10 days.
“After they exit quarantine, the individual must adhere to the conditions set by the Malaysian government. For example, they cannot dine at restaurants if they are not fully vaccinated,” the minister said.
For travellers who have health reasons to remain unvaccinated, they will need to upload proof of their exemption, such as a doctor’s letter, in their MySejahtera app.
“The exemption will be evaluated by the Health Ministry to determine its authenticity.
“After the evaluation is done and it is determined to be authentic, they will get a health exemption,” Mr Khairy added.
Travellers who enter Malaysia in the last week of March will be released from quarantine on Apr 1, the minister said. Currently, vaccinated travellers are required to observe a five-day quarantine period for those who have taken their booster doses, or seven-day for those without booster doses.
Additionally, quarantine-free entry is allowed for children and teenagers below the age of 17, regardless of their vaccination status.
Like other travellers, they are also required to undergo a pre-departure RT-PCR and post-arrival RTK-Ag test.
All health protocols will be uploaded onto https://covidprotocol.moh.gov.my, Mr Khairy added.
WHAT HAS CHANGED FOR MALAYSIANS TRAVELLING OVERSEAS?
Similarly, Malaysians with valid travel documents are allowed to travel overseas to countries which have also opened their international borders for travel.
Fully vaccinated Malaysians do not need to undergo quarantine upon returning to Malaysia. They also have to fulfil the pre-departure RT-PCR and post-arrival RTK-Ag test requirements.
For countries which are still closing their borders, Malaysians can make use of the vaccinated travel lanes (VTLs) which have been agreed upon between the Malaysian government and related countries.
Malaysia has land and air VTL agreements with Singapore since late 2021. Its VTLs with Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia are in the works.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TRAVEL BETWEEN SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA?
With Malaysia’s announcement, travellers from Singapore can enter Malaysia from Apr 1 quarantine-free as long as they are fully vaccinated.
However, they will still be subject to quarantine requirements imposed by Singapore upon their return, if they are not travelling via VTL. There is reportedly a daily quota of 4,320 people both ways for those using the land VTL between Singapore and Malaysia. The cap for the air VTL has not been disclosed.
SIngapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI) said on Tuesday that it is working with its Malaysian counterparts to allow vaccinated travellers to cross the land border through other transport modes.
In his Wednesday press conference, Mr Khairy said the federal government is in discussions with states that have international borders as well as neighbouring countries on the issue.
As such, details on international land travel will only be announced next week, he added, as the protocols have to distinguish between travellers entering for tourism and periodic commuters.