Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yacoub said on Sunday that the country would end its domestic and international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated residents from Monday, after reaching its target of full vaccination for 90% of the adult population.
It comes a day after Singapore added eight new countries to its vaccination and quarantine-free travel lanes – the most significant easing of travel restrictions since borders closed last March.
Empty tables and closed restaurants were seen in Singapore’s Chinatown on October 5.
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The plans also reflect the “living with Covid” approach seen in many Western countries, including the United Kingdom and parts of the United States, where daily life has largely returned to normal.
Cases in Malaysia began to rise in early 2021, prompting the government to reimpose the lockdown restrictions lifted last December. Then in June, it felt the sharp edge of the deadly Delta version.
Despite the national lockdown, the country was reporting hundreds of thousands of cases per day at the peak of the surge in August.
Frustration grew among citizens who were forced to endure further restrictions on their liberties, and protests erupted in July over the government’s handling of the virus.
A police officer removes a road blocker after the end of a partial lockdown in Bentong, Malaysia’s Pahang state on October 11.
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Under the lockdown restrictions, lakhs of people were told to stay at home whenever possible and domestic travel was banned. Schools were closed and gatherings were banned. The following month, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Muhyiddin Yassin, resigned, fueled by raging public anger.
“We have to train ourselves to live with Covid, because Covid cannot be completely eliminated,” Yacoub said at a news conference on Sunday, adding that Malaysia will not again impose a widespread lockdown if cases continue to rise. .
The easing of restrictions means that fully vaccinated Malaysians can travel abroad without having to apply for permission from immigration officials. Previously, travel was largely restricted for business, official or emergency reasons. Domestic travel will also be allowed, ending the ban on travel in 13 Malaysian states.
The easing of measures comes as daily caseloads continue to decline after rising sharply from June to August.
Singapore continues to maintain its strategy to live with the virus, despite a recent spike in deaths from reporting daily Covid-19 cases and the Delta variant outbreak.
According to Transport Minister S Easwaran, under the new rules, travelers from a total of 11 countries can enter Singapore without quarantine – all part of its “recover and rebuild” campaign.
Singapore is home to the Asian headquarters of many multinationals whose executives rely on the ease of commuting to and from the country – one of the largest travel and finance hubs in the world.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore “cannot remain closed and closed indefinitely,” adding that job losses, family separations and business closures are “psychological and emotional.” stress and mental fatigue”.
People enter a COVID-19 vaccination center in Singapore on October 7.
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On 1 October, Singapore reimposed some local restrictions to contain the spread. The strict measures include limiting social gatherings to two people and suspending or moving online classes for students aged 12 and under – a move met with some dismay by Singaporeans, Reuters reported.
During his address on Saturday, Lee said it would take “at least three months, and perhaps up to six months” to become restrictions-free, and hinted at the possibility of future lockdowns if cases start to rise – unlike in Malaysia.
“Once this boom has stabilized, we may still see an uptick in the future, especially if new versions come out,” Lee said. “If cases rise too rapidly again, we may have to tap the brakes again, to protect our healthcare system and healthcare workers.”
According to Johns Hopkins data, Singapore has the highest vaccination rate in the world, with over 80% of the population fully vaccinated.
Singapore’s decision to go ahead with VTL comes at a time when other countries in the Asia-Pacific region are also moving towards living with COVID.
Vietnam’s government said on Wednesday it plans to reopen major tourist destinations to vaccinated visitors from countries at low COVID-19 risk from December before a full resumption targeted for June next year, Reuters reported. .
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