THOUSANDS of people traveled between Malaysia and Singapore in cars, motorcycles and by foot on Friday after the land border separating the two nations reopened fully for the first time in two years.
The causeway links, one of the world’s busiest land crossings, opened at midnight last night, allowing vaccinated people to cross over without having to test or quarantine. People began gathering at the border checkpoint as early as 7:30pm in Singapore, according to Straits Times and Channel News Asia, celebrating the possibility of reuniting with families and friends in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, the atmosphere around Johor Bahru city was just as lively, with many converging to wait for the arrival of family members, Malaysia’s Bernama reported. Shouts of ‘welcome back’ were heard from those gathered near the Johor Causeway as fireworks were let off in the background, the state news agency reported.
More than 11,000 travelers passed through the checkpoints at Woodlands and Tuas as of 7 a.m. Friday, Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority said in a statement. At least 400,000 people are expected to cross the border within the first week of the full reopening, Johor Chief Minister Onn Hafiz Ghaz was cited by Malaysia’s local media as saying this week.
People can make the crossing in cars, buses and motorcycles – or even walk across the causeways. New daily shuttle bus services between Woodlands Checkpoint and Johor Bahru’s Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex are available from Friday, bus operator Causeway Link posted on Facebook. Singapore’s Transport Minister S. Iswaran said Wednesday that authorities are working to restore public bus services soon.
Besides the land crossing, Singapore also dropped most restrictions for all fully-vaccinated travelers arriving by air or sea. People can now arrive at the Changi Airport without having to quarantine or test on arrival.
Before Covid-19 struck, more than 300,000 people streamed across the land border each day, making it one of the world’s busiest.
The reopening will help recovery in both economies, said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consulting firm Endau Analytics in Johor Bahru.
“When you are an economy that is so heavily reliant on another economy as Johor Baru has been over decades, then you are at the mercy of something like a pandemic when the borders are shut,” he said.
Singapore was Malaysia’s biggest source of visitors in 2019 with some 10 million arrivals, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia. That number fell to 1.5 million in 2020, primarily made up of visitors in the first couple of months of the year before lockdowns. Singaporean tourists also bring in the most money for Malaysia, spending about 20.5 billion ringgit ($4.9 billion) in 2019.
Singapore-Kuala Lumpur was the world’s second-busiest international route in 2019, with 5.56 million seats available, according to data from flight-tracking firm OAG.