Malaysia has opened its borders for international travel, ending restrictions that have been in place since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020.
Among measures adopted by the authorities to facilitate the travel of non-Malaysian nationals to the country are the abolishing quarantine requirements for vaccinated travellers, with only a pre-departure test and a test within 24-hours of arriving in the country, reports Xinhua news agency.
There is already optimism that the move into the endemic phase will see economic recovery, especially for the country’s hard hit tourist sector which has been largely closed off.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri said over 10,000 foreign travellers and Malaysians residing abroad were expected to arrive at airports nationwide on Friday and the Ministry is targeting over 2 million tourist arrivals within 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 alike, back to Malaysia, supporting our economy again,” she told reporters at an event to mark the reopening at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
Malaysia attracted 4.3 million tourists in 2020 because of lockdowns following the pandemic, a sharp decline from the 26.1 million in 2019.
Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong noted the influx of travellers moving across the bridge connecting Malaysia and Singapore, allowing families to reunite ahead of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, and Qingming, a traditional tomb-sweeping festival.
“Some were on motorcycles or in cars, and some even walked. This is the result of good discussions between the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to benefit the people of both countries.
“However, 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 cautioned.
The relaxed standard operating procedures (SOP) and other measures must not mean that caution is thrown to the wind, according to Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President Koh Kar Chai.
He added that the coming weeks and months would be important, with health authorities being expected to keep a close eye on the rate of hospitalization of Covid-19 cases and the incidence of severe cases which are warning signs to look out for.
Malaysia has so far reported 4,201,919 Covid-19 cases and 34,983 deaths.