Government Wants to Reopen Borders to Boost Tourism

Image via Langkawi Info
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Turns out foreigners are pretty good for the Malaysian economy.

Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, Malaysia’s Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister announced yesterday in a press briefing in Kuching, Sarawak, that officials in the government are in talks over opening borders in order to salvage the struggling tourism sector.

“We are now working at negotiating with countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and New Zealand which have been identified as Green Zones.”

Nancy Shukri, at a press conference after visiting the Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (CENTEXS) 27 December 2020

The Tourism Minister also went on to say that the matter will still need further discussions with other respective ministries, namely the Ministry of Health, before deciding if the country is ready to start accepting overseas tourists.

Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur November 23, 2020. | Image Credit: Yusof Mat Isa

She went on to refer to Malaysia’s internal green travel bubble that was restarted recently in order to help the tourism sector that was hit hard since the Movement Control Order started in March, and again badly hit when the CMCO was implemented in KL and Selangor, prohibiting interstate travel. She praised the initiative, noting, “Yes, even some of the hotels in places like Langkawi are fully booked. So, it has been a good initiative.”

Nancy Shukri also appealed to domestic tourists from official green zones in the country who are holidaying, to maintain all health-regulated SOPs, especially physical distancing. She further added, “We do not want the number of Covid-19 cases getting high after the government has approved the green travel bubble because at the end of the day, it will affect the economy, especially our tourism sector,”

However, the minister refrained from addressing the concerning spike in Covid cases over the last few weeks that has now seen Malaysia climb past 100,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

With most of the cases now concentrated in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Sabah, the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) has received an extension in these states until January 14, 2021. The extension also covers Johor Bahru and Batu Pahat in Johor; Seremban in Negri Sembilan; and two areas in Penang’s southwest and northeast parts of the island.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob | Image Credit: Bernama

On a more positive note, Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced last week that international students – with the exception of students from the United Kingdom – will be allowed to return to their respective campuses from January 1, 2021. This includes students who have been accepted into public and private institutes of higher learning and have permanent accommodation here in Malaysia.

All international students are required to take a Covid-19 swab test and be quarantined on arrival, as well as undergo a Covid-19 test three days before departing for Malaysia from their home countries. Ismail Sabri added that all costs for tests and screening will be at each student’s own expense, and if they are travelling with a guardian, the same rules apply.

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