The National Recovery Council (NRC) has proposed that Malaysia reopen borders as early as March 1.
At his meeting on Tuesday, NRC Chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (Photo) said the council recommends there is no longer a need for a mandatory quarantine for those entering Malaysia. This would help support the economy by encouraging travel.
Muhyiddin, however, noted that those entering the country should undergo Covid-19 tests before and immediately after arrival, as recommended by the Ministry of Health.
The country’s borders have been partially closed since March 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak to control the spread of the virus.
The government only reopened the Malaysia-Singapore border at Johor with a vaccinated lane agreement.
While everyone is aware that countries need to open their borders to allow not only tourists but also business travelers to move around to help hard-hit economies recover, we also need to carefully consider the impact of such a decision.
For example, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said his government was aware that the tourism industry had been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But a spike caused by tourists carrying the virus — particularly the highly transmissible variant of Omicron — isn’t what we need right now.
Especially since the number of cases of Covid-19 has been on the rise in recent days.
The health minister has warned that Malaysia is “fully on the wave of the Omicron variant”.
On Friday, the prime minister told the media that his cabinet had yet to discuss the NRC’s proposal.
And the Health Ministry has yet to provide comments on the proposal to Cabinet for review, Ismail Sabri said.
As the Prime Minister said, we have to strike that balance as we have done before, between protecting the economy and keeping people healthy.
We must be careful not to be pushed back to square one when the strict movement control order had to be imposed and the country came to a virtual standstill.
Of course, the difference today compared to last year or 2020 is that despite the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, the number of serious cases requiring intensive and hospital care is a fraction thanks in large part of our high vaccination rate – one of the highest in the world.
Now, if only we got all of our reminders this quickly, we would be able to approach the opening of the borders with an easier mind.