Singapore reopens in the Omicron Era

This is not a typical start to the work week in Singapore. At a bus stop on the northern outskirts of the city, people are lining up to do something extraordinary: make the journey less than a mile across the water to Malaysia. Once almost as routine as the commute between New York and New Jersey, the economically important border saw about 300,000 people cross the pre-coronavirus daily. It has been closed to most people since the pandemic began. For a very small number, that started to change Monday morning. As the world is learning to add omicrons to its Covid-panic dictionary, these few dozen travelers are joining Singapore’s most iconic effort to expand its borders. It is an open question whether the government can tolerate the risks that come with this small step. Many of them are ready to see their families for the first time in two years. But while this isn’t the water-soaked airport scene from the 2003 movie “Love Actually,” it’s a marker of Singapore’s fight with the pandemic: A tiny, affluent republic that depends on imported labour, energy, food and water feel normal enough to be confident enough to ease the constraints of their land boundaries. Malaysia is no ordinary neighbour. As one of Singapore’s most important trading partners, the two sides have deep political and cultural histories.

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