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Loud cheers, cars honking, surprises and reunions aplenty as Causeway fully reopens for commuters after 2 years

SINGAPORE — The Causeway was roaring back to life. The family members of Mr Ganesan Narayanan on the other side were in for a surprise.

People waving and cheering as they make their trip across the Causeway after midnight on April 1, 2022.

People waving and cheering as they make their trip across the Causeway after midnight on April 1, 2022.

  • Singaporeans and Malaysians were excited to head to Malaysia unfettered by Covid-19 quarantine and testing rules 
  • Lines of people were already waiting at Woodlands Checkpoint hours before April 1 began past midnight
  • That was when fully vaccinated persons were allowed to travel across the Causeway linking Singapore and Johor Baru
  • Motorists cheered, waved, sounded car horns and posed for photographers 
  • Rental leases changed hands as people vacated their homes in Singapore to live in Malaysia again with family and friends 

SINGAPORE — The Causeway was roaring back to life. The family members of Mr Ganesan Narayanan on the other side were in for a surprise.

The 37-year-old technician had planned to return to Kulai in Johor Baru, Malaysia early next week but when he heard that his friend was going to cross the Causeway on foot in the early hours of Friday (April 1), he changed his mind to walk back to Johor with the friend.

Mr Ganesan's wife and seven-year-old daughter who live in Kulai think that he is returning next Tuesday.

When asked how he felt when he first heard the news about the land borders between Singapore and Malaysia fully reopening after two years, he said: “I couldn't believe it.”

He added that he was just excited and happy to return home. He will return to Singapore to work in less than 24 hours and plans to resume the daily commute that he used to do before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scores of people lined the pathways leading to the immigration checkpoint in Woodlands on Thursday night, waiting to cross the Causeway after midnight.

Pedestrians and motorcyclists making their way across the Causeway from Singapore to Malaysia in the early hours of April 1, 2022.

Just before midnight, the first few motorists entering Singapore from Malaysia waved excitedly to reporters and long queues started forming after that.

Drivers and motorcyclists sounded their horns, waved enthusiastically and cheered loudly. Passengers in vehicles waved and smiled for the cameras as well.

One passenger rolled down the car window and fanned out a few booklets in her hand, saying: "See, all the passports ready."

Motorists all ready to happily cross the Woodlands Checkpoint.

The Causeway was closed in March 2020 when the coronavirus outbreak first struck.

It was announced last Thursday that from April 1, people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to make trips across the land borders between Singapore and Malaysia without the need to undergo quarantine or testing, including pre-departure and on-arrival tests.

Entering Singapore after midnight was Mr Ooi Boon Pin, 36, an electrician turned air-conditoner installer.

He told TODAY: “I used to work in Singapore but when Covid happened, I chose my family. I returned to Malaysia and worked there. There is still a great difference in terms of salary in Malaysia compared to Singapore, because the conversion rate is three times.

“I decided to return to Singapore to work and found a job. Then just as well, the announcement came that the border will reopen on April 1.”

His wife returned to Singapore to work in December last year, but their son and Mr Ooi's parents are in Malaysia.

“I left for Malaysia on March 22, 2020 — a few days after the border closed. I haven’t been back since, until now. I’m happy and relieved that the border has reopened because my son is still in Malaysia.”

The scenes at Woodlands Checkpoint early on April 1, 2022.

Speaking to reporters at 12.50am, Senior Assistant Commissioner Chua Tuan Meng, Land Domain Commander from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), said: “The reopening of our land borders marked another significant milestone in our transition towards living with Covid-19.

"ICA and other agencies have been working closely with our Malaysian counterparts to reopen our borders in a safe and calibrated manner over the past few months.

“It has been more than two years since border restrictions were in place at the land checkpoints. Fully vaccinated travellers for both countries are now able to cross the land borders... Since midnight, operations at both land checkpoints (Woodlands and Tuas) have been smooth... We would like to remind drivers to prepare all necessary documentation such as having baby travel documents, submitting the SG Arrival Card (and so on).”

He added that ICA will continue to monitor the situation and will be fine-tuning ground processes to improve the checkpoint experience for travellers.

Earlier in the night, Mr Arafat Mahyiddin told TODAY that he would begin walking across the Causeway from Woodlands Checkpoint to Johor Baru, where his wife and children would be waiting for him. 

"I feel so happy and I can't wait to go... To me, this is like a moment that you won't be able to re-live," the 38-year-old said.

Even though he was last back in Malaysia in December last year for three weeks, the excitement on Thursday night was different and on a higher level. 

The Malaysian, who is working as a warehouse helper here, put up a post last week on a Facebook group called “Malaysia-Singapore Border Crossers", inviting others to join him and he has received several comments and messages asking him if they could walk together. 

"The plan now is to walk the Causeway with a couple of friends, but we will see if there are others who are planning to walk. Then maybe we will go together."

Mr James Lim, 42, was also planning to make the journey across the border by foot. 

For the biomedical officer, the relaxed regulations could not have come at a better time because he can finally visit his ailing father, who is suffering from cancer. 

Mr Lim, who has been living in Singapore since 1999, said: “I just want to see my dad because his condition is critical."

However, having encountered problems when registering his details on the MySejahtera mobile application needed for travellers, Mr Lim is unsure if he would be turned away at immigration. 

"Doctors said they can't do anything for my father and he's been in and out of hospital. I just hope I can see him tomorrow."

Like Mr Lim, some people have reported having the same issues with the app and travel insurance requirements, and there were those who told TODAY that they were holding off their trips until the administrative processes were ironed out or clearer.

The scenes at Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore as people head towards Johor Baru, Malaysia on the first day land borders are fully reopened past midnight on April 1, 2022.

RENTAL LEASES CHANGING HANDS

As people head home to live with their families across the Causeway, they have had to make arrangements to settle accommodation contracts here.

Mr Tanageswaran Chandra Mohan, 26, and his wife Dhanalaxmi Gunahsegeran, 26, both Malaysians, have leased out their flat in Farrer Park and are moving back to live in Tampoi, Johor, carrying with them many luggages as they approached the Woodlands Checkpoint.

The last time they returned to their hometown was two years ago.

Ms Dhanalaxmi’s cousin, Mr Ugendran Asogan, 24, also a Malaysian, was going back to Malacca.

When asked what was the first thing he would do upon arriving home, Mr Ugendran said that he would give his mother a big hug because he has missed her.

Another Malaysian in Singapore seeing his family in person for the first time in two years was Mr Muhammad Fariezatul Firdaus Ahmed.

His family lives in Kelantan.

The 31-year-old who works as a cleaner here said: “I’ve already given up the lease of my flat in Singapore… I have until April 10 to move out all my belongings from the flat and I’m renting a place in Johor with some friends.”

He would be riding up to Johor Baru with six other friends together in a convoy of motorcycles at around 4pm on Friday, after they finish work for the day. 

Mr Fariezatul used to commute daily from Johor to Singapore and plans to resume this routine now.

 

 

CANNOT SLEEP PROPERLY

Planning to cross the Causeway next Monday was Mr Kelvin Lim. When he first heard news that the travel restrictions were easing and he would not need to apply for any extra documents to travel between both countries, he immediately cancelled his lease for his rental accommodation here. 

With a month left on the lease, the Singapore permanent resident, who works as a pharmaceutical technician, plans to resume his daily commute so that he can be with his family again. 

Every night, it has become routine for the 39-year-old to call his wife and nine-year-old daughter who live in Johor Baru.

Although he last returned home in February, Mr Lim cannot wait for next week to come so that he can be reunited with his family members, who have been longing for his return. 

“When the news came out, I was so happy. I haven’t slept properly the last few days and my daughter keeps asking me when my day off is,” he said. 

“All I want to do is hug my wife and daughter. Then maybe treat them to a good meal.” 

Mr William Chong, 39, will also be driving up to finally see his family on Saturday morning and although he is not worried about the Covid-19 situation, he said that he would take some precautions when heading up north so as to protect his family.

“My children study in a school that requires them to walk a distance to get to the bus stop. Before the lockdown (between the two countries), I would walk the kids there before I head to Singapore for work. Now, my wife does that and I'm worried for her safety because she has to go out at 5am when it is very dark," he said. 

Mr Chong said that he would have to look at the border situation and processes before deciding to make daily commutes to visit his family. 

Travel options by land or air between Singapore and Malaysia have been limited for more than a year, with quota only for certain essential workers under restricted conditions, or for business travellers, for instance.

Plans to restart travel for vaccinated persons were also put on hold when the Omicron virus strain caused an infection wave late last year. When quarantine-free travel was made available end of last year, some people were discouraged by the Covid-19 tests they had to do for short or daily trips. 

For now at least, those who had long yearned for this moment have had their patience rewarded. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TAUFIQ ZALIZAN and OOI BOON KEONG

Related topics

Malaysia Causeway travel family reunion Covid-19 Woodlands Checkpoint ICA

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