Travel between M’sia and Covid-free countries would boost industry, say experts

PETALING JAYA: The government should consider allowing international tourism if it decides to lift more restrictions, although it should be limited to countries that are declared free of Covid-19.

Limiting travel to and from Covid-free countries will minimise the risk of infection and new outbreaks, and spur the country’s tourism industry, according to experts.

Malaysian Wellness Society president Datuk Dr Rajbans Singh said for a start, the government could allow interstate travel before opening the country’s borders for limited international tourism.

“If a country no longer has cases, then maybe we can allow their people here, and Malaysians to travel there. But there needs to be strict guidelines and standard operating procedures in place.

“It should be targeted, rather than allowing travel to and from all countries,” the consultant physician told theSun yesterday.

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said travel between safe countries, such as Vietnam, China and Taiwan, could be considered.

“Some countries are very safe to travel to, and to allow their people to come here. However, our travelling advisories should differ depending on the risk of the said country,” he said.

Rajbans and Lee were commenting on Health Director-General Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s statement on Tuesday that more sectors would be reopened if the number of new local cases remains low.

According to Lee, other sectors that the government could consider reopening are indoor sports and certain entertainment facilities, as well as learning institutions.

“However, large-scale events and gatherings should continue to be banned for the moment. There should still be restrictions on the number of people gathering at any one point, and this should only be loosened gradually,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said reopening the borders for certain targeted countries would be a huge boost to the country’s tourism and economy.

He said although this limited tourism was only likely to see tourism improve to about 10% of pre-movement control order (MCO) figures, it would help kickstart the industry.

“This will be a very positive move and I believe tourism should be a priority, because once we move, many other sectors like transport and food and beverages will also move. Tourism should be on the high priority list,” he said.

However, head of emergency services at Thomson Hospital in Kota Damansara, Dr Mohamed Al-Hadi Mohamed Razhi, said reopening the country’s borders would not be a good move, adding that such proposals should be put on hold for the moment.

He also said it was still unsuitable for cinemas, karaoke outlets, night clubs, reflexology centres and exhibition centres to be reopened now, as it would be impossible to practise social distancing at such establishments.

Meanwhile, senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh H.S.S. said the lifting of more restrictions would only work if people behave responsibly, which includes the practice of social distancing, wearing face masks and frequently washing hands.

He said there should also be continued vigilance by the Health Ministry to look for new clusters, and that new localised MCOs needed to be imposed if new cases are reported.

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Govt urged to allow international tourism