Happy reunions as the border between Malaysia and Singapore reopens

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysians working in Singapore held happy reunions with their loved ones after returning to their …

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (AP) – Malaysians working in Singapore held happy reunions with their loved ones after returning to their home country on Monday after the partial reopening of a land border that has been closed for almost two years due to the pandemic .

Buses carried fully vaccinated passengers across the Causeway Bridge connecting the island of Singapore with the Malaysian Peninsula, with strict measures in place, including pre-departure and COVID-19 tests on arrival.

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

During the first phase, only 1,440 travelers who are to be nationals, permanent residents or long-term passport holders are allowed from each side per. The causeway was one of the world’s busiest land borders before the pandemic hit. Flights also reopened on Monday with fewer restrictions, allowing anyone fully vaccinated to travel quarantine-free between the two countries.

“It’s already over a year ago I never meet her and when I see her today I’m happy I’m very happy,” said pensioner Siva Ganesan after greeting his wife, Uma Devi Balakrishnan, at the bus terminal in the southern state of Johor. His wife works as a cleaning assistant in Singapore and was stranded when the borders were closed.

A Malaysian man kissed and hugged his baby, whom he met for the first time, while another woman sank crying down into her father’s arms. More than 100,000 Malaysians are believed to be stuck in the island state after the border closed in March 2020.

“It’s surreal, does not feel right at all because it has been a while not to come home,” said Malaysian Cheong Weng Yin. “I felt very nervous until I set foot here.”

Across the border, Chua Pei Sze and her two daughters, ages 10 and 7, were first in line for the first bus bound for Malaysia. “Finally, we can get my daughters to see their grandmother in person … video calls are just not enough,” said the 43-year-old, who works in the shipping industry.

Kavin Raj, 24, said he would surprise his family because they did not realize he had managed to get a ticket on the first bus. “First I want to say that I want a very good meal in Malaysia,” he said excitedly.

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

The two countries said the borders for land border crossings will be gradually relaxed to include regular travelers and modes of transport other than buses. Another land connection is also expected to be restored soon. Singapore has vaccinated 85% of its population, and Malaysia almost 80%.

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Associated Press writers Eileen Ng of Kuala Lumpur and Toh Ee Ming of Singapore contributed to this report.

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