A very specific and onerously regulated bit of domestic travel will be permitted between RMCO areas as of March 10, but individual tourists need not apply.
Domestic tourism is now allowed in Malaysia! Sounds great, right? Well, don’t get all jazzed to cuti-cuti Malaysia until you read the fine print. Most of us shouldn’t bother packing a bag.
Announced by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on March 9, if a whole slew of requirements are met, a tiny sliver of domestic travel will be permitted from March 10. Ready for the list?
- Travel must be between Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) areas only.
- If any travel through non-RMCO areas is required, no stopping in those areas is allowed.
- Travel must be organised by government-approved tour agencies only.
- Agencies must obtain prior permission from the police (PDRM).
- Travelling in a personal capacity is strictly prohibited.
- Travel to or from any Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) areas is prohibited.
- Tour vehicles used must be registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture (MOTAC).
- All hotel accommodations must be pre-arranged, declared, and approved by police prior to any travel.
- All tourism activities must be pre-arranged, declared, and approved by police prior to any travel.
- Each individual on a given tour need not apply for police permission separately; the responsibility lies with the tour operator to seek approval on each traveller’s behalf (presumably collectively, but this was not specified).
Netizens seemed both unimpressed and baffled by the announcement, with plenty of comments on social media questioning the logic of allowing large tour groups to travel together. “Travelling together with strangers increases the risk of infection,” one person commented. “Are you encouraging people to gather in big groups to travel? Or before the trip everyone need to be tested for Covid? This does not make sense at all.” Another person chimed in, saying, “This gives the impression [that] going in a tour bus shields you from catching the bug.”
This was echoed again and again. “Sohai kah? Individual with private own car cannot cross state, but with public transport with strangers travel together, can?? As if Covid won’t target passengers in public transport!”
“So in order to stop the virus spread, you only allow people to travel interstate with public transportation?” one incredulous netizen wrote. “If there is one Covid-19 carrier on the bus – you know how the story ends, right?”
Others mused about possible cronyism and favouritism, as the real winners of this announcement are ‘approved’ travel and tour agents. “Some powerful and rich people in the tourism industry [are] pushing the government until they break… and they don’t need to push very hard either,” one user wrote on social media. Another woman commented simply, “I smell a racket.”
States and territories currently under the RMCO are Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, Labuan, and Perlis.
Also, with effect from March 10, the island of Langkawi will be placed under RMCO, rather than CMCO, status. The last recorded new cases on the island were on February 20, when Langkawi logged a total of two. The rest of Kedah state, however, will remain under CMCO.
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