Putrajaya is seeking to reopen borders to citizens of nations now classified as Covid-19 “green zones.”
On Friday, Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah—the head of Malaysia’s Health Ministry—announced that the government was in talks with Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea to resume quarantine-free travel. According to the New Straits Times, he told reporters the discussions were in a “very early” stage, as Malaysia still needed “to finalize the standard operating procedures and reach an agreement with the countries on several matters, which has to be mutual and reciprocal.”
In a separate address, Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government would allow citizens of Singapore and Brunei to enter the country without being screened for Covid-19 or undergoing quarantine, so long as Malaysians were afforded the same exemptions abroad. The Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs then released a statement over the weekend, saying it was prepared to work with Malaysia, and that “such bilateral arrangements would have to include mutually agreed public health protocols.” As for lifting border restrictions, the ministry added that “both countries will require some time to work out the details.”
Malaysia is not the only Southeast Asian nation looking to open up “travel bubbles” with regional neighbors that have successfully curbed the spread of the virus. Also on Friday, Thailand’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration approved a proposal to admit 1,000 international travelers (including businessmen and medical tourists) per day from selected countries with no mandatory quarantine. However, these arrivals would still need to be tested for Covid-19 both at their point of origin and upon entry to Thailand. Last month, Vietnam considered letting in foreign visitors from regions that had no new reported coronavirus cases for 30 days; it has since agreed to partially lift restrictions with Japan in a step-by-step process, and the two countries are now working out final details including a date for when business travel can resume.