A joyful reunion as the land border between Malaysia and Singapore reopens

A joyful reunion as the land border between Malaysia and Singapore reopens

Johor Bahru Malaysians working in Singapore held happy reunions with their loved ones after returning home on Monday after the partial reopening of a land border that was closed nearly two years ago due to the pandemic.

Buses carried fully vaccinated passengers across the Causeway Bridge that connects the island of Singapore to Peninsular Malaysia, with strict measures including COVID-19 tests before departure and on arrival.

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

Under the first phase, only 1,440 passengers who must be citizens, permanent residents or long-term permit holders from each side are allowed per day. The Causeway was one of the world’s busiest land borders 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.

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Pensioner Siva Ganesan said after welcoming his wife, Uma Devi Balakrishnan, at the bus station in the southern state of Johor. His wife works as a cleaner in Singapore and was stranded when the border closed.

A Malaysian man who met him for the first time kissed and hugged, while another woman sank into her father’s arms in tears. More than 100,000 Malaysians are believed to be stranded in the island nation after the border closed in March 2020.

Malaysian Cheung Weng Yin said, “It’s fantastical, I don’t feel realistic at all because it’s been a while since I haven’t come home. I was so nervous until I set foot here.”

Across the border, Chua Bai Sze and her two daughters, 10 and 7, were in the front row on the first bus bound for Malaysia. “Finally we can bring my daughters to see their grandmother in person…Video calls are not enough,” said the 43-year-old who works in the shipping industry.

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Kavin Raj, 24, said he would surprise his family because they were unaware that he managed to get a ticket on the first bus. “First thing, I will say, I will have a very good meal in Malaysia,” he said excitedly.

More than 350,000 people crossed Causeway Road daily before it closed, most of them Malaysians working in Singapore due to the favorable exchange rate.

The two countries said restrictions on land border crossings would be gradually relaxed to include general travelers and other modes of transport other than buses. A second ground link is also expected to be restored soon. Singapore has vaccinated 85% of its population, and Malaysia nearly 80%.

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Associated Press writers Elaine Ng in Kuala Lumpur and Toh I-Ming in Singapore contributed to this report.

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