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As the world approaches the second year since the pandemic began, many countries are learning to live with the coronavirus and entering a ‘new normal.’
This is exactly the situation that neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia are facing, as both have announced that they will soon ease entry restrictions for international visitors.
The announcement came as welcome news, especially for those who are eager to travel and use their Singapore arrival card or to see friends and family.
After being closed for more than 20 months to foreign visitors, Singapore is slowly opening up.
The country started off with an ‘air travel lane’ pilot program at the beginning of September, when they opened up to vaccinated guests from Germany and Brunei.
The latest expansion came this month, when Singapore added eight new countries to the list, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. On November 15, Singapore and South Korea will also launch a mutual Vaccinated Travel Lane between the two countries.
The move came after Singapore famously stated that instead of aiming for a zero COVID-19 strategy, the country will ‘learn to live with the virus.’
Flights from major airline hubs in the approved countries, such as Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, and New York, are already scheduled via Singapore Airlines.
Travelers who are planning to visit Singapore under the new travel rules should keep the following rules in mind.
First and foremost, Singapore is only accepting vaccinated travelers at the moment. Likewise, travelers will need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before departing and take another PCR test upon arrival at Changi Airport.
Travelers who are staying longer will also need to test again on days three and seven at a designated clinic.
Finally, travelers will need to apply for two documents before they can travel. The Air Travel Pass must be applied for between 7 to 30 days before departure and is an authorization needed to enter the country.
The second document is called the SG Arrival Card. This form will ask travelers basic questions about their personal information (including passport details and contact information), as well as their accommodations (name and address of hotel) and travel itinerary (flight details and intended date of arrival).
Currently, entry to Malaysia remains heavily restricted for foreign nationalities. The only people allowed in include Malaysian citizens and residents, spouses, international students, essential workers, and short-term business travelers, among others.
Likewise, there are also domestic restrictions in place. Under the National Recovery Plan (also known as the NRP), each Malaysian state is categorized into one of four phases, with Phase One being the most restrictive. The phases are based on statistics like the number of hospital beds, new cases, and vaccination rates.
At the moment, all of Malaysia’s states are either in phase three or four, including the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Likewise, the country is quickly moving towards herd immunity, with 77 percent of locals having at least one dose, and 72 percent being fully vaccinated.
Thanks to vaccination efforts and the National Recovery Plan, Malaysia is working towards possibly reopening its borders soon.
In fact, Malaysia is in talks to reopen to international tourists in November, and travelers from neighboring Singapore could be the first to be part of the program.
The Malaysian tourism minister, Nancy Shukri, noted that both sides are currently holding meetings to discuss potential travel between the two countries. She noted that “[Malaysia] is open to Singapore as long as Singapore is open to us.”
On a similar note, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob hinted that Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands that’s popular with tourists all over the world, will soon undergo a ‘travel bubble’ pilot project.
The program, which will begin on November 15, will last for three months and be evaluated by the Tourism Ministry, Health Ministry, and National Security Council to gauge its effectiveness. If the initiative is successful, it will be expanded to other popular tourism destinations.
Although the list of countries that can participate in this ‘travel bubble’ is still being reviewed, there are a few rules that are already established.
For example, international visitors must stay in Langkawi for at least three days (no quarantine required!), provide a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure, and buy special travel insurance.
For testing on arrival, travelers will have two options: if they fly through KL International Airport, travelers will need to undergo a rapid antigen test. However, if they fly straight to Langkawi, then travelers will be required to do a PCR test on the second and fifth day.
Overall, these new announcements from Singapore and Malaysia are a step forward to reopening borders, jumpstarting tourism once again, and allowing people to travel to their favorite destinations!