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Malaysia is attempting to eliminate the stigma of Covid-19 as the Asean region begins tourism

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Song In Singapore, Ewe Jurn hasn't seen his ailing grandma in over two years.
The architect was one of hundreds of Malaysians who visited the island city-state on a tourist visa before Covid-19 closed the border in March 2020.

So the 38-year-old was "extremely happy" when he heard Malaysia's declaration this month that fully vaccinated citizens will be permitted to go abroad, as well as Singapore's steps to lift travel restrictions.


"However, I was extremely disappointed when I saw the authorised list of countries," he remarked.

Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are gradually reopening their borders to international visitors, even without quarantine.
However, one of its closest neighbours, Malaysia, has been left out of the reopenings thus far.

Malaysia is still largely regarded as "high risk" despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the area, with over 70% of the entire population and nearly 95% of adults immunised to date.


Its average daily caseload of roughly 7,000 during the last seven days is close to the Philippines' but lower than Thailand's, both nations with lower vaccination rates.

Some in the Malaysian travel sector are hopeful that the government will do more to promote the nation and open its own doors sooner rather than later.
For fully vaccinated citizens, restrictions on interstate and outbound international travel have been relaxed, although Malaysia's borders remain restricted to tourists for the time being.


Singapore is enabling arrivals from Brunei, Germany, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as Hong Kong and Macao, to enter quarantine-free.
The debut of a green lane with South Korea is scheduled next month.

Singapore and Malaysia had reciprocal agreements that enabled some travel between the two countries, but they were terminated after less than a year owing to Malaysia's devastating fourth wave of illnesses, with exceptions for family crises.
Reopening talks between the two is said to be in the works.


On August 26, at the height of the outbreak, Malaysia reported 24,500 new cases.
However, daily infections are continuing to decline, and active cases have dropped from a high of 264,000 to below 100,000.
Malaysia has registered approximately 2.4 million cases and 28,000 deaths through March 2020.

In the meanwhile, Thailand is planning to allow quarantine-free travel from ten "low-risk" countries, with the entire list to be released soon.
The United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States have all been mentioned as possible possibilities by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.


As long as travellers are vaccinated, the Philippines has opened its doors to China, New Zealand, and more than 40 other economies.
Malaysia is not on Manila's list of friendly countries.

In addition, Indonesia has opened the tourist hotspot of Bali to 19 countries, including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and a few European countries, albeit with quarantine requirements.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who is in Indonesia on a business trip till Wednesday, said the two countries are talking about creating a specialised bubble for business and critical travellers before expanding to include education, social travel, and tourism.


During a joint press conference with his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, he said, "Both countries can study ways to connect green spots in their respective countries to serve as the entry point."

The absence of Malaysia from the Bali pilot's reopening was not noted.

The Japanese foreign ministry likewise declined to respond to Nikkei Asia's questions.


There are some signs of progress.
According to Bo Lingam, CEO of AirAsia Aviation Group, the airline has won authorisation to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand's Phuket and Krabi beginning November 5 under a dedicated travel bubble arrangement.

He stated, "Tickets are already on sale."

The ambassador of Malaysia to Thailand recently stated that inclusion on the general low-risk list would be discussed.

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