Malaysians looking forward to reunions after 9 months of Covid-19 travel curbs

Vehicles at Penang Bridge on Oct 11, 2021. Inter-state travel has been allowed again in Malaysia after being banned for nine months. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysians are looking forward to visiting their relatives in other states after travel across the nation was allowed again from Monday (Oct 11), after being banned for about nine months.

Still wary of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still logging thousands of infections and about 100 deaths daily, those whom The Straits Times spoke to are taking extra precautions beyond mandated regulations.

Many like lawyer Lim Minyi, 34, are planning long overdue trips to their home towns this month, having missed traditional returns during festivals after interstate travel was banned on Jan 13.

"We will stay for about a week. Thereafter, (my) hubby plans to have staycations where we will just stay in the hotel and order food in," said Ms Lim, who lives in Selangor but is originally from Johor.

Both Ms Lim and marketing manager Sharon San plan to self-test for Covid-19 before embarking on their journeys. The measure was encouraged by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob when he announced the reopening of state borders on Sunday, although self-testing is not mandated.

"We used to take our daughter to her grandparents' during the school holidays as both my husband and I are working and there is nobody to take care of her. So, we will take our daughter back to Kuantan and Ipoh so that she can spend time with (her) grandparents," said Ms San, 36, who is from Nilai, Negri Sembilan.

The relaxation of movement curbs for the 90 per cent of adults who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - and their children - also includes being able to travel overseas travel prior permission from the authorities.

Fashion entrepreneur Ain Natasha Halim, 31, told The Straits Times: "The No. 1 thing I need to do is go back to my apartment in Bayswater, London.

"I haven't been back in over two years. God knows what has happened to it, so I look forward to fixing everything that needs to be fixed before thinking about a holiday."

She added that she is considering locations that are not too crowded due to the heightened risk of contracting the virus in enclosed spaces.

With over 65 per cent of the total population gaining immunity against the deadly virus, daily cases have fallen below the five-digit level this month and the 6,709 logged on Monday is the lowest figure since July 5.

However, some states are still in two minds about a full reopening. Sarawak, which has the highest infection rate in the country, wants visitors to apply for permission to enter and present a negative Covid-19 test result.

Sabah, where less than half the population are inoculated, will decide only on Wednesday whether to lift the interstate travel ban.

The authorities have urged travellers to take precautions to avoid a repeat of travel clusters contributing to spikes in infections. Police have also warned that while roadblocks are no more, random spot checks will be conducted to ensure compliance with rules aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.

"Please don't let your guard down. The first line of defence against #COVID19 begins with yourself," Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Twitter.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also expressed concern that "everyone is going to be rushing to the borders".

"As the health minister, my biggest worry is another wave," he said on Sunday.

"Every night I worry. I worry because we don't know how this Sars-CoV-2 virus behaves… it's a novel virus. We don't know how it mutates, how it behaves and what it is likely to do next… and most importantly, we also don't know how people (will) behave.

  • Additional reporting by Nadirah H. Rodzi and Hazlin Hassan

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