Langkawi Opens Domestic Travel Bubble

Fully vaccinated Malaysia residents can now take a quarantine-free vacation to the popular holiday island.

The Langkawi Cable Car is one of the island’s top attractions. (Photo: Parth Yadav/Pixabay)

Taking its cues from the Phuket Sandbox model in neighboring Thailand, Malaysia is trialing its first travel bubble for fully vaccinated domestic travelers starting tomorrow (September 16). The scheme is open to all double-dosed residents except for those who are close contacts of positive cases and/or are living in areas under an Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO), the strictest lockdown setting. Several localities in Perak, Pahang, and Sabah at the village level will be locked down for two weeks from Thursday; none of Malaysia’s major cities are currently under EMCO.

Fully vaccinated travelers must show that they are free of Covid-19 (either through a PCR or antigen swab test) within 48 hours of departure, and present their negative result at the relevant airport or ferry terminal. At a press conference today, Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said all those aged seven and above must undergo tests, while children aged six and below will be subject to pre-departure screening for coronavirus symptoms. According to the government’s latest statistics, the vaccine coverage on Langkawi is now high enough to reach herd immunity. Khairy added that 89.9 percent of the island’s adult population have been fully inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine, while 91.8 percent have received their first dose.

Earlier this week, tourism minister Nancy Shukri said the initiative would serve as a benchmark for reopening destinations elsewhere in the country. She also urged Langkawi-bound travelers to be responsible and comply with the SOPs, as their actions would determine the fate of Malaysia’s hard-hit tourism sector. Domestic visitors living outside Kedah and Perlis who plan to travel overland before boarding a boat to Langkawi cannot use their own private vehicles, and must organize transport through a travel agency registered with the tourism ministry. Day trips will be allowed. Holidaymakers were previously asked to apply for a police letter granting permission for interstate travel, but that requirement has since been dropped.

Once on the island, visitors will be able to use swimming pools, gyms, and other recreational facilities at their hotels, and enjoy water sports and outdoor pursuits such as trekking and golfing. Meanwhile, visitor attractions like zoos, museums, and art galleries will operate as normal. Travelers below 18 years of age (who are not yet covered by the nationwide vaccine rollout) will have to be accompanied by fully vaccinated guardians while in public, and there is no requirement to have insurance coverage or undergo further Covid-19 screening in Langkawi.

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