Singapore, Malaysia to open land border for vaccinated travelers

Restaurants are open for takeaway in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Aug 11, 2021. (SAMSUL SAID/BLOOMBERG)

ANKARA / DHAKA / KUALA LUMPUR / KYIV / SEOUL / ULAN BATOR / WELLINGTON / YANGON – Singapore and Malaysia will launch a quarantine-free travel lane at their land border crossing next week, one of the world's busiest, for people vaccinated against COVID-19, the two countries said on Wednesday.

The plan, effective Nov 29, expands an already announced move to start a travel lane for flights between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport from next week.

The land travel lane in the first phase will apply to citizens, permanent residents, or long-term pass holders of the country they are entering, to allow people to visit families on the other side of the border, the office of Singapore's prime minister said in a statement.

Malaysia announced the creation of the land border travel lane separately on Wednesday. 

Singapore, with a population of 5.45 million, relies heavily on Malaysians living in the southern state of Johor to staff businesses ranging from restaurants to semiconductor manufacturing. 

Many Malaysians used to commute daily from across the border prior to the pandemic.


Bangladesh's first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine has obtained ethical clearance for a human trial.

The Bangavax vaccine, developed by local pharmaceutical company Globe Biotech, on Tuesday received the clearance from Bangladesh Medical Research Council after the council reviewed all the documents on animal trials.

"We've got ethical clearance from BMRC for a human trial on up to 64 healthy adult participants," Mohammad Mohiuddin, a senior official at Globe Biotech, told journalists.

He said the BMRC has informed the company that it will be given clearance for widespread use if its phase-2 and phase-3 trials show the vaccine's safety and effectiveness.

Globe Biotech applied for approval for a human trial on Nov 1, saying its vaccine has yielded "good results" in trials on monkeys.

The vaccine can reportedly be stored at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius for one month and of -20 degrees Celsius for up to six months.


Indonesia ordered its governors to stop all workers from taking leave during the upcoming holiday season in a bid to prevent a potential spike in COVID-19 infections. Civil servants and private-sector employees are banned from taking leave from Dec 24 on Jan 2, according to an instruction from the home affairs ministry. The restriction also applies to the police and military forces, while schools are urged to cancel year-end holidays.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy will bring back movement limits during that period as it braces for a potential virus resurgence, even if the latest number of infections and deaths have fallen to levels seen in the early days of the pandemic. Its vaccination coverage remains low, with only around 33 percent of the population fully inoculated. 

Indonesia on Tuesday confirmed 394 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 4,253,992, according to the country's Health Ministry.


Covaxin, one of the main vaccines used in India’s coronavirus immunization drive, provides only 50 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19, according to a real-world study that suggests the shot is less effective than initially thought. 

As India was hit by its second major COVID wave earlier this year, researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi analyzed data from 2,714 of the hospital’s health workers who were showing signs of infection and underwent RT-PCR testing between Apr 15 and May 15, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. At the start of the country’s vaccination campaign in January, staff at AIIMS had exclusively been offered Covaxin, a shot co-developed by India’s state-funded health research agency and local company Bharat Biotech International Ltd.

The authors found that two weeks or more after completing a two-dose regime the vaccine’s adjusted effectiveness against symptomatic COVID was lower than the 77.8 percent that interim results established during final stage tests, a study of which was published in The Lancet earlier this month. 

So far more than 130 million doses of Covaxin have been administered in India. Bharat Biotech and India’s government, which has widely promoted the shot, have sought to close the door on controversies involving the vaccine’s early authorization in January before it had completed phase 3 human trials, prompting widespread hesitancy in the country at the time. 


Malaysia reported another 5,594 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Tuesday, bringing the national total to 2,597,080, according to the health ministry.

Among the new cases, 5,570 were local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Another 47 more deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 30,110.

About 4,908 more patients were released after recovery, bringing the total number of cured and discharged to 2,498,345.

There are some 68,625 active cases. Among them, 532 are being held in intensive care and 266 of those are in need of assisted breathing.

The country reported 135,631 vaccine doses administered on Tuesday alone. Some 78.6 percent of the population have received at least one dose and 76.6 percent are fully vaccinated.


Mongolia's COVID-19 tally rose to 380,021 on Wednesday after 634 new local infections were reported across the country over the past 24 hours, according to the health ministry.

Meanwhile, the country's COVID-19 death toll increased to 1,896 after 11 more patients aged over 40 died in the past day.

So far, around 2.24 million people, or 66 percent of the country's population, have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and 589,315 people aged over 18 have got another booster dose.

The health ministry said at least half of the population is supposed to receive a booster.


Myanmar has rolled out plans to resume international tourism early next year, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on Wednesday

Myanmar has rolled out plans to resume international tourism early next year, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on Wednesday.

In the first phase of reopening tourism, the ministry expects to welcome visitors from regional countries. In this connection, the ministry needs to make alignment with their reopening plans, travel bubbles or travel corridor schemes, the ministry's Public Relations and Information Department told Xinhua.

The country suspended operations of international commercial passenger flights excluding relief flights, medical evacuation and special flights, and the issuance of all types of visas for foreign nationals from all countries were also suspended, following the report of first two COVID-19 positive cases on Mar 23 last year.

According to a recent release of Information Ministry, land border crossings with Thailand will reopen next month ahead of a resumption of international air travel by the end of first quarter of 2022.

According to the ministry's figures, 1,228 out of total 2,259 licensed hotels and guesthouses are now running in the accommodation sector, which is one of the hardest-hit areas by the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

The relief plan consists of three main phrases which are survival, reopening and re-launching.

 "The Hotels and Tourism Ministry has implemented Phase 1 and Phase 2 before the COVID-19 third wave started in our country. Currently, the spreading of COVID-19 has gradually decreased, and we will proceed to the next phase for the recovery of tourism in Myanmar," the public relations and information department official said.

People wearing face masks walk along a beach in Auckland, New Zealand on Aug 25, 2021.  (MICHAEL CRAIG / NEW ZEALAND HERALD VIA AP)

New Zealand

New Zealand said on Wednesday that fully vaccinated foreign travelers will be able to enter the country from Apr 30, easing its border curbs that have been in place since the pandemic hit in March of last year.

Fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia can travel to New Zealand without requiring quarantine from Jan 16, the COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins also said at a news conference.

Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travelers from all other countries can start travelling to New Zealand without quarantine from Feb 13, he said.

New Zealand reported 215 new Delta variant cases of COVID-19 in the community on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country's current community outbreak to 7,484.

Among the new infections, 181 were recorded in the largest city of Auckland, 18 in nearby Waikato, three in Northland, 12 in Bay of Plenty, and one in Canterbury, according to the Ministry of Health.

A visitor wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks at an exhibition hall in Goyang, South Korea, Oct 20, 2021. (LEE JIN-man / AP)

South Korea

Little known sect led by a pastor who pokes eyes to heal is at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, as the country reported a new daily record of 4,116 cases for Tuesday and battles a spike in serious cases straining hospitals.

In a tiny rural church in a town of 427 residents in Cheonan city, south of Seoul, at least 241 people linked to the religious community had tested positive for coronavirus, a city official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Many of the congregation were elderly in their 60s and above and were unvaccinated, the official said. Just 17 out of the 241 confirmed cases had been vaccinated.

"I believe it's the church's anti-government beliefs that refrained the believers to get the vaccine," the official said, adding that the town was put under a lockdown.

The church opened in the early 1990s and has ever since become larger with communal living facilities of its own.

South Korea reported 2,699 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Monday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 420,950.

The daily caseload was down from 2,827 in the previous day, staying below 3,000 for two days.

The recent resurgence was attributable to cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Of the new cases, 1,160 were Seoul residents. The number of the newly infected people living in Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon was 769 and 129.

The virus spread also raged in the non-metropolitan region. The number of new infections in the non-capital areas was 627, or 23.4 percent of the total local transmission.


Thailand reported 5,126 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the lowest single-day tally since Jun 30, ahead of a scheduled review of a further easing of virus curbs. The country had 53 COVID deaths over the prior 24-hour period, and the cabinet approved the purchase of a further 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccines. 

Separately, there were 20,272 foreign travelers to Thailand in October, the highest monthly tally since March last year when the Southeast Asian closed its borders. There were 12,237 visitors in September.. 


Turkey on Monday reported 24,856 new COVID-19 cases, raising its tally of infections to 8,596,410, according to its health ministry.

The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 193 to 75,235, while 28,935 more people recovered in the last 24 hours.

More than 56.06 million people have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines, while over 50.09 million had their second doses. Turkey has so far administered over 119.47 million doses including the third booster jabs.