Malaysia further relaxes COVID-19 restrictions in bid to revive economy

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 (Xinhua) – Malaysia opened its borders for international travel on Friday, ending restrictions that have been in place since the covid-19 pandemic began in 2020.

Among the measures adopted by the Malaysian authorities to facilitate travel for non-Malaysian nationals to the country are the abolition of quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers, with only one test before departure and one test within 24 hours of arrival in Malaysia.

There is already optimism that the transition to the endemic phase will see economic recovery, especially for the country’s hard-hit tourism sector, which has been largely shut down.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri said more than 10,000 foreign travelers and Malaysians living abroad are expected to arrive at airports across the country on Friday alone and that the ministry aims for more than 2 million tourist arrivals during the year.

“After two years, today is a historic moment and a huge relief for our tourism industry as we welcome international tourists, newcomers and regulars back to Malaysia, to support our economy again,” she told reporters at an event to mark the reopening at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Malaysia attracted 4.3 million tourists in 2020 due to shutdowns after the covid-19 pandemic, a sharp decrease from 26.1 million in 2019.

Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong separately noted the influx of travelers moving across the bridge connecting Malaysia and Singapore, allowing families to be reunited ahead of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, and Qingming, a traditional burial festival.

“Some were on motorcycles or in cars, and some even went. This is the result of good discussions between the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to benefit the people of both countries,” he said in a statement.

“But everyone is reminded to always take care of the health and safety of yourself and your loved ones. This is the first step towards a normal life,” he warned.

The relaxed standard procedures (SOPs) and other measures, although welcome, must not mean that caution is thrown in the wind, according to Malaysian Medical Associations (MMA) President Koh Kar Chai.

“As everyone is either preparing to travel or to receive visitors from abroad due to the opening of our international borders from today, the public is reminded that we are still in the pandemic phase of covid-19. The borders have not been opened because we are disease-free but because we need to revive our economy, “he told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

He added that the coming weeks and months would be important, with health authorities expected to keep an eye on the frequency of hospital stays of COVID-19 cases and the occurrence of serious cases that are warning signs to look out for.

Malaysia reported 18,560 new covid-19 infections at midnight Thursday, bringing the national total to 4,201,919, according to the Ministry of Health. Another 44 deaths have been reported, bringing the country’s covid-19 death toll to 34,983.

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