Malaysia COVID-19 panel recommends full border reopening in March

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People dine-in at a restaurant following social distancing measures, as Langkawi gets ready to open to domestic tourists from September 16, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Malaysia September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Malaysia's coronavirus recovery council on Tuesday said it has recommended a full reopening of borders as early as March 1 without mandatory quarantine for travellers, as part of plans to accelerate economic recovery.

The Southeast Asian nation has shut its borders since March 2020 and froze the entry of foreign workers to try to contain novel coronavirus outbreaks.

The recommendation comes as neighbours waive quarantine requirements to attract vaccinated tourists, including Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore.

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Thailand on Monday said it was eyeing travel bubbles with Malaysia and China.

Muhyiddin Yassin, a former premier and chairperson of the National Recovery Council (NRC), a government advisory body, said travellers would have to undergo COVID-19 screening before departure and on arrival.

"This means tourists can visit, investors can enter... It means AirAsia (AIRA.KL) can fly again, as an example," he told a news conference, referring to the Malaysia-based budget carrier.

At present, Malaysia allows quarantine-free entry to people from Singapore as part of a bilateral arrangement.

Daily coronavirus infections in Malaysia have surged in recent weeks to their highest in four months, driven by the Omicron variant.

It reported 13,944 new infections on Tuesday, adding to more than 2.9 million cases recorded overall, with over 32,000 deaths, among the highest fatality and infection rates in Asia per capita.

The majority of the cases were asymptomatic or mild due Malaysia's high vaccination rate, the health ministry said on Monday.

About 98% of Malaysia's adult population has received two doses of the vaccine and more than half a booster shot. About 89% of 12-17 year olds have been vaccinated and inoculations for children age 5-11 started last week. read more

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Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Martin Petty

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