Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing

Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Passengers wait to board a bus in Singapore to cross the border overland to Malaysia's southern state of Johor under the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between the two countries.

Singapore, Malaysia loosen Covid curbs at busy land crossing

Malaysia and Singapore eased coronavirus travel restrictions on one of the world’s busiest land borders on November 29 after nearly two years, allowing some vaccinated people to cross without quarantine.

Before the pandemic, about 300,000 people used to commute across the border from Malaysia every day to the neighbouring city-state, to work in areas ranging from public transport to electronics manufacturing.

But most travel was abruptly halted in March, 2020, leaving many who previously commuted, and other Malaysians in Singapore, effectively stuck there as they needed to continue working.

From November 29, vaccinated Singaporean and Malaysian citizens, those holding permanent residency status and work permits can cross the 1km causeway separating the countries without having to quarantine.

“I feel happy to be able to go back and meet my family finally after two years,” Eunice Teoh, a Malaysian getting the first bus from Singapore under the scheme, said.

“I do feel a bit nervous because this is the first batch, and I’m not really sure what will happen,” added the 28-year-old, who works in finance and was heading to the Malaysian state of Pahang.

Initially, around 3,000 people a day will be able to cross using special bus services, and will have to take virus tests.

Officials say the first stage is aimed at workers who have been unable to see families for some time, and they plan to expand it later to other groups.

Counting down the days

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob made an official visit to the city-state to mark the start of the initiative, doing a fist-bump with Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong as they met at a border checkpoint on the causeway.

Restrictions were also eased on November 29 on air travel, with vaccinated people allowed to fly between the countries’ main airports without quarantining.

Christine Soong was heading from Malaysia to visit family members in Singapore.

“I have three [grandchildren] and they all miss me so much, so they’re very excited,” the 69-year-old said at Kuala Lumpur airport.

“They’ve been counting down the days since we booked the flight.”

Prior to the easing of curbs, citizens and some other groups were still allowed to travel between the neighbours, but they had to quarantine on arrival.

Both Malaysia and Singapore – which were part of the same country during a stormy, two-year union in the 1960s – have high vaccination rates.

Singapore’s outbreak has been mild by global standards, although Malaysia faced a serious wave this year driven by the Delta variant.

Malaysians have long been a key part of the workforce of wealthier Singapore, which has a population of just 5.5 million, and then can typically earn higher salaries than back home.

The easing of curbs comes despite the emergence last week of the heavily mutated Omicron strain, which is starting to spread around the world.


  • Historic Battambang town bans billboards

    The Battambang town administration informed all house and business owners in Svay Por commune to remove all billboards by August 1 as it is preparing to submit the town to UNESCO for inclusion on its historical cultural heritage list. Its July 25 notice said all signage was

  • All foreigners' accommodations to be inspected: Sar Kheng

    The Ministry of Interior is undertaking a serious effort to inspect all the accommodations of foreigners in Cambodia – except diplomats – in order to find and identify human traffickers. Minister Sar Kheng said this would include inspections on the homes of foreigners employed by businesses, private

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker