After over two years of closed borders, Malaysia will at long last reopen for international travel in just over three weeks’ time.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced today (March 8) that Malaysia will begin its transition to the endemic phase of the long coronavirus pandemic and will reopen its borders starting April 1.
“The ‘Transition to Endemic’ phase is an exit strategy to enable all of us to return to almost normal life after two years of struggling with Covid-19,” he said at a special press conference held at Parliament on March 8.
With few exceptions, Malaysia has been closed to foreign visitors since the implementation of the first Movement Control Order on March 18, 2020.
In his remarks, the PM explained that from April 1, international travellers entering Malaysia would only need to have the usual valid travel documents to enter and exit the country, and Malaysians (and presumably resident foreigners) can travel freely to other countries with similar open borders.
Foreign travellers coming to Malaysia will no longer need to apply via the MyTravelPass mechanism, and will only need to download the MySejahtera contact tracing application.
For those who are fully vaccinated, there will be no need to undergo any period of quarantine when arriving in or returning to Malaysia. Travellers only need to undertake a Covid-19 Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test two days before departure and then have a professionally administered Covid-19 Rapid Test Kit-Antigen (RTK-Ag) test within 24 hours after arrival in Malaysia.
Further standard operating procedures and details on the border reopening are expected to be announced on March 9.
THE NEXT PHASE
The April 1 date will not only see the borders reopened, but will also mark the beginning of Malaysia’s transition to the endemic phase. (It should be noted that ‘endemic’ doesn’t mean we’ve declared victory over the virus, but rather have adopted a greater acceptance of its risks, and learned how to live with it without serious disruptions to daily life.)
As part of the transition, the long-imposed limits on operating hours for business premises would be lifted, he said, and operators can run their businesses according to their licensing permits.
“This means you can all eat at restaurants after 12am, especially during the month of Ramadan which is coming soon,” Sabri said.
Mosque prayers and religious worship in other non-Muslim religious venues can also be carried out without physical distancing.
Limits on staffing capacity, which has depended on the vaccine coverage of certain businesses, will also be lifted. Interstate travel will be permitted for all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, the prime minister added.
The current 50% capacity limit on events and large gatherings will no longer be applicable, although Sabri added that physical distancing was still important and encouraged.
Face masks in public and checking in to business premises via the MySejahtera app, will still be required during the initial period of transition.
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