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Coronavirus

Singapore-Malaysia land, air lanes open amid omicron COVID fears

City-state orders tests on arrival; PM Lee says variant may require 'steps back'

A bus operator speaks to a passenger at a station in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, on Nov. 29, as the country's land border with Singapore reopens under a vaccinated travel lane program.    © AP

SINGAPORE/KUALA LUMPUR -- Singapore and Malaysia opened land and air lanes for vaccinated travelers on Monday -- a landmark moment for citizens separated from loved ones but overshadowed by fears of a new coronavirus strain that emerged last week.

To mark the occasion, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob made his first official visit to the city-state, with counterpart Lee Hsien Loong welcoming him. Footage on Lee's Facebook page shows the two masked leaders posing in front of a bus. But just as the scheme was getting off the ground, global concerns over the highly mutated but little understood omicron variant prompted officials to adjust.

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