Thousands of people travelled between Malaysia and Singapore in cars, motorcycles and on foot on Friday after the land border separating the two nations reopened fully for the first time in two years.
The causeway links, which is one of the world’s busiest land crossings, opened at midnight, allowing vaccinated people to cross over with no test or quarantine required.
People began gathering at the border checkpoint as early as 7.30pm on Thursday in Singapore, according to Straits Times and Channel News Asia, upbeat about the possibility of reuniting with families and friends in Malaysia.
The atmosphere in Johor Bahru city, Malaysia was lively as many people awaited family and friends. 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 7am 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 cross in cars, buses, motorcycles or 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 as soon as possible.
Before the pandemic, over 300,000 people crossed 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 (US $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.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BLOOMBERG