IATA welcomes Malaysia’s reopening of borders, calls for end to pre-departure testing

THE long-awaited reopening of Malaysia’s international borders will become a reality on April 1 with quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated travellers.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in making the announcement yesterday (March 8), said the reopening is in line with plans to enter the “Transition to Endemic” phase and also a move revitalise the country’s economy, especially the tourism industry that has been badly hit by the Covid pandemic.

The country was closed for two years since the first movement control order in March 2020.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) joined Malaysians at home and abroad, the country’s travel trade and the aviation industry in welcoming the reopening.

Malaysia’s reopening its borders will allow the country to reap the social and economic benefits of aviation given its contribution to jobs and Gross Domestic Product, says IATA’s Philip Goh (Image credit: IATA)

“It is a good step forward as aviation provides the needed connections and linkages to facilitate commerce, trade and the movement of people. This will allow Malaysia to reap the social and economic benefits of aviation given its contribution to jobs and Gross Domestic Product,” said IATA regional vice president for Asia Pacific, Philip Goh, in a statement.

IATA hopes that in the next phase of opening the Malaysian government will replace polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing with antigen rapid test (ART) testing for pre-departure testing initially, and eventually do away with pre-departure and post-arrival testing for all vaccinated passengers.

Malaysia requires all vaccinated Malaysian and foreign travellers entering the country to undergo a PCR test two days before departure and an RTK-Ag test within 24 hours upon arrival.

Goh noted that in the past few weeks a number of countries in the Asia Pacific region have eased travel restrictions. “Australia, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam have variously taken steps forward to lower the barriers to international travel.

“We urge other major states such as Indonesia, Japan and South Korea to accelerate the further easing of travel restrictions, to maximise the benefits that aviation can bring to their economies,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) described the “decisive reopening of borders as a crucial step forward for the tourism industry”.

The association has been urging the government for some time to reopen for fully vaccinated travellers. “We can finally start rebuilding the tourism sector and contribute to Malaysia’s economic recovery,” its president Tan Kok Liang said.

He added the industry can now begin its marketing and promotions activities and recalling tourism workers in stages back to work.

“Local tourism players have already made preparations to welcome international tourists and have always maintained a clean and safe environment for everyone by adopting safety procedures.”

Malaysia Airports is also getting ready to welcome the expected influx of international passengers when borders reopen.

Among the steps taken by the  airport operator to ensure airport readiness include deploying more customer experience staff on the ground, as well as installing more signages and seats across the terminals for better passenger convenience and comfort. Additionally, more than 22,000 members of the airport community have been fully vaccinated.

The KL International Airport is getting ready to welcome back international visitors. (Image credit: Malaysia Airports Facebook page)

“We are looking forward to seeing good growth in our international passenger and aircraft traffic movements as this would contribute significantly to the Group’s and airport community’s business performance. Among others, inbound tourism will also be rejuvenated and the spillover effect throughout the entire value chain will benefit Malaysia’s economy positively,” Dato’ Iskandar Mizal Mahmood, managing director of Malaysia Airports, said in a statement.

The reopening Malaysia’s borders also allows Malaysians with valid travel documents to travel to any country, which also opens its borders to foreign travellers (no quarantine on return).

They can also travel to countries Malaysia has Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) agreement with. Currently it has an air and land VTL arrangement with Singapore, while air VTLs with Thailand and Cambodia will kick off on March 15. Malaysia has agreed in principle to implement the same soon with Brunei and Indonesia, while discussions are ongoing with other ASEAN countries on the safe reopening of additional routes in the future according to prevailing situations.

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