What’s in a pandemic? Since March 2020, Malaysia’s ports of entries have been closed to international tourists on account of the ongoing scourge.
Countless thriving communities and livelihoods built around the tourism sector across the nation saw their revenue streams dry up almost instantly. Think empty beaches and hotel rooms, but spare a thought for those that rely on those places for jobs.
Businesses like those which haven’t already fallen victim to the pandemic, are surely on their last legs now – some 20-months later.
In light of this quandary, ex-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin – now chairman of the government-advisory National Recovery Council (MPN) – has proposed that the country’s borders be fully open to international tourists latest by New Year’s Day.
“Taking into account the excellent achievements of the national vaccination programme, the meeting has decided that the country’s borders should be opened to international tourists by 1 January, 2022 to speed up recovery for the (tourism) sector,” he said in a statement.
It remains to be seen what this means in practice, as the government has taken a more measured approach to reopening.
Addressing the Dewan Negara early last month, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri said that the borders would not be opened arbitrarily, and that permissions to entry will depend on the COVID-19 situation in their countries of origin.
“If we were to open the country’s borders to foreign travellers, every development (related to Covid-19) in their countries of origin will be taken into consideration.”
As at time of writing, Malaysia only allows fully-vaccinated travellers on official business to enter the country, which excludes tourists.
Some much-needed respite may be coming soon, via our ASEAN neighbours.
Earlier this week, a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme was introduced between Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) & Singapore’s Changi Airport, set to allow travellers between the two hubs from 29 November.
Hot on the heels of the news, Ismail announced that another VTL scheme with Indonesia has been agreed in principle, which will connect air passengers between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur sometime early next year.
Despite these initiatives, the full details are still scant as at the time of writing. A VTL would mean that fully-vaccinated travellers would not need to observe quarantine on arrival, and that they test negative for COVID-19 pre-departure, but what kind of travellers exactly has not been announced.
It was surmised by casual observers and analysts that tourists are included, but until the proof is in the pudding, the guy hawking drinks at the beach will just have to wait and wonder.