Happy reunion as Malaysia-Singapore land border reopens

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JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysians working in Singapore held a happy reunion with loved ones after returning to their home country on Monday following the partial reopening of a land border that had been closed for nearly two years in because of t

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysians working in Singapore held a happy reunion with loved ones after returning to their home country on Monday following the partial reopening of a land border that had been closed for nearly two years in due to the pandemic.

Buses carried fully vaccinated passengers across the Causeway Bridge that connects the island of Singapore to the Malaysian peninsula, with strict measures in place, including pre-departure and upon arrival COVID-19 testing.

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

In the first phase, only 1,440 travelers who must be citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders are allowed on each side per day. The causeway was one of the busiest land borders in the world before the pandemic struck. Air travel also reopened on Monday with fewer restrictions, allowing anyone fully vaccinated to travel without quarantine between the two countries.

“It’s been over a year already, I never meet her and when I see her today I am happy, I am very happy,” said retiree Siva Ganesan after greeting his wife, Uma Devi Balakrishnan, at the South Johor State Bus Station. His wife works as a cleaner in Singapore and was stranded when the borders were closed.

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

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

Across the border, Chua Pei Sze and her two daughters, aged 10 and 7, lined up for the first bus to Malaysia. “Finally, we can bring my daughters to see their grandmother in person… video calls just aren’t enough,” said the 43-year-old, who works in the shipping industry.

Kavin Raj, 24, said he would surprise his family as they didn’t know he had managed to get a ticket on the first bus. “First, I would say I’m going to have a really good meal in Malaysia,” he said enthusiastically.

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

To mark the reopening of their border, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob crossed the causeway for an official visit and was greeted by his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at the checkpoint.

The two leaders told a press conference that the limits of land border crossings would be gradually relaxed over the next month to include travelers in general and other modes of transport besides buses. A second land link should also be re-established soon.

“We are all looking forward to see what the omicron variant of COVID-19 does and how it will perform,” Lee said. “Even if the omicron disrupts these plans, our goal will always be to have more open borders… and I’m pretty confident that after a while we’ll be able to make further progress.”

Singapore has vaccinated 85% of its population and Malaysia nearly 80%.

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

Sywalludin Zain, The Associated Press


































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