KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 – Today marks the reopening of Malaysia’s international borders and further easing of Covid-19 rules, with nightclubs remaining as the only business on the negative list.
At the Malaysia-Singapore land checkpoints, thousands of travellers on foot, motorcycles, and cars, mainly Malaysians, made their way towards home as the clock struck midnight. It has been over two years since stringent border controls were first put in place at the land borders – one of the busiest international crossings in the world.
The Malaysian government’s MYGaris Panduan, posted on the National Security Council’s Telegram page, is divided into 9 activity categories”, each listing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for different sectors – arguably simpler than the previous SOPs, as guidelines like assessing Covid-19 risks, Covid-19 symptoms, MySejahtera use, mask type recommendations, ventilation, personal hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, Covid-19 management, and vaccination are the same across all sectors.
The sectors, however, are not clearly defined in each guidebook. Businesses can identify with the theme of each guidebook.
For travellers, particularly all vaccinated air and land travellers from Singapore, they are exempted from quarantine and Covid-19 testing upon arrival.
However, they are required to download, register and activate the MySejahtera app before departure and verify their Covid-19 vaccination certificate on the mysafetravel portal.
Travellers travelling from Singapore by air and land no longer need to apply for entry approval, undergo post-arrival testing, or undergo quarantine.
Those who are travelling by air, however, will need to undergo a RT-PCR or professional RTK-Ag test within two days before departure. Travellers travelling by land do not need to undergo pre-departure testing for Covid-19.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated or are unvaccinated are allowed to enter with the requirement of mandatory quarantine for five days and must be protected by Covid-19 travel insurance with a minimum coverage of US$20,000 (RM84,230).
For daily or frequent commuters, they will need to activate the MySejahtera app within a week before departure (only for first time entry), have a completed vaccination certificate, and undergo Covid-19 testing. First time entry requires RTK-Ag professional test results to be uploaded within 24 hours of departure, with subsequent RTK-Ag professional tests conducted weekly.
Traveller requirements from other countries include the activation of the MySejahtera app, performing RT-PCR test two days before departure, completing a pre-departure form on the MySejahtera app including uploading the vaccination certificate, and a minimum Covid-19 insurance coverage of US$20,000.
Vaccinated travellers are, by default, exempted from quarantine but will need to undergo progressional RTK-Ag test within 24 hours upon arrival. If they are positive for Covid-19, they will need to undergo self-isolation based on directions from the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Other special requirements for travellers other than the general protocols listed are subject to agreement between Malaysia and other countries.
Despite the removal of quarantine rules for vaccinated travellers, Covid-19 testing requirements and surveillance continue to remain in place as Malaysia takes a cautious and gradual approach to lifting public health measures due to Omicron risk.
On face masks, MyGaris Panduan states that 3-ply surgical masks, as well as N95/ N95/ KF94 masks have 95 per cent protection against viruses, while non-surgical masks have zero protection. Covid-19 is a virus.
Face masks for children under-five and individuals with special needs such as those with cerebral palsy, autism or health conditions with breathing difficulties (requires a certified medical report from a registered medical practitioner), are exempted.
Mask-off activities listed include sports and recreational activities, water-based activities, eating and drinking, and performances which include singing in a choir, concert, or karaoke, dancing, acting, and public speaking.
For religious activities, physical distancing during prayers in mosques, surau, and other places of worship are exempted, while maintaining the wearing of face masks. Muslim congregants are encouraged to bring their own prayer rugs and perform ablution at home.
In all other activities, however, worshippers or visitors of places of worship are advised to practice physical distancing where possible and avoid physical greetings such as shaking hands or hugging. The congregational etiquette applies to activities in mosques, surau, and houses of worship other than Islam.
Individuals who are symptomatic or Covid-19 positive or under home surveillance order (HSO) are not allowed to enter the premises or participate in activities.
For weddings and funerals, MySejahtera QR codes must be provided at main entry points. Seating space should be arranged to allow for physical distancing.
For indoor workplaces, the MOH encourages working in shifts and staggered break times to limit face-to-face social interactions. Working from home is also encouraged. Employees who are symptomatic should self-test and upload their results on MySejahtera.
For outdoor workplaces, such as construction sites, staggered working hours and breaks are encouraged, as well as work rotation based on management’s evaluation.
For transportation, physical distancing at terminals, in vehicles, and at ticket counters should be practised. Individuals should choose to purchase tickets online via self-service counters and make cashless payments where possible.
Individuals who are symptomatic or Covid-19 positive or under HSO are not allowed to use public transportation.
For education and care facilities, limited face-to-face interactions are encouraged using virtual online platforms. However, physical classes can be conducted on a regular basis in compliance with SOPs and regulations set by the relevant ministry or department.
For retail activities and food and beverage, the MOH’s advisory is to opt to shop online, make digital payments or reservations for dine-in and takeaway. Physical retail outlets should also place markers as physical distancing guides.
For sports, recreational, and leisure activities, masks can be taken off during physical and sports activities, both indoors and outdoors, though good ventilation is encouraged.
This includes increasing air circulation by placing fans outwards at doors or windows, ensuring that exhaust fans are running throughout operating hours, installing air filters, and monitoring carbon dioxide levels.
Physical distancing should also be maintained where possible, subject to types of activities.
For events, gatherings, entertainment, and tourist attractions, place markers for physical distancing should be put in place. Both consumers and workers are encouraged to shop, work, and socialise online or virtually where possible.
Individuals who are symptomatic or Covid-19 positive or under HSO are not allowed to attend or participate in any activities, events and gatherings.
For hotel and guest accommodations, place markers should be put on tables and floors as distancing guides. Guests should book their stay in advance online or virtually. Hotels should also conduct frequent cleaning in communal areas and high-touch surface areas.
According to the CovidNow website, Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 case numbers have fallen from a peak 31,490 cases on March 8 to 18,560 cases on March 31. Average seven-day Covid deaths have also declined from 87 deaths on March 15 to 58 deaths on March 24.
Despite the overall downward trend, Malaysia’s hospitalisation rate remains above 50 per cent at 63.6 per cent, with states like Kedah, Melaka, Pulau Pinang, and Terengganu having hospitalisation rates of more than 70 per cent.
Malaysia’s intensive care unit (ICU) rates are slightly better at 56.9 per cent, though Kelantan has an ICU rate of 74.1 per cent. Several states and federal territories, including Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Pulau Pinang, and Perlis have ICU rates above 60 per cent.