Lift interstate travel restrictions

02-Mar-2021 Intellasia | FreeMalaysiaToday | 5:02 AM Print This Post

A neighbour has not visited her aged parents in Penang for several months all because of the restriction on interstate and interdistrict movement.

She’s worried because both are above 78 years old and both have some medical conditions.

Initially she thought the second movement control order (MCO) would only last two weeks but it was extended. MCO 2.0 is now scheduled to end on March 4 and she has already planned a visit to Penang. Her parents who live alone are eager to see her too. But now it looks as though it might not come to pass.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on February 26 that the interstate travel ban might go on until at least 70 percent of the population had been vaccinated for Covid-19.

His reasoning is that when the government allowed interstate travel last December 7, the disease spread to states which were then “green” or free of Covid-19 cases. He said those in “red zones” travelled to “green zones”, bringing the virus with them.

Yesterday Noor Hisham said the decision to allow interstate or interdistrict travel would depend on the evaluation of risk factors by the government, including daily Covid-19 case numbers, infectivity rates, deaths and bed capacity at hospitals.

If the government were to wait for 70 percent of the population to be vaccinated or for herd immunity to kick in, no one can travel without getting a permit the whole of this year.

Khairy Jamaluddin, the coordinating minister for the national Covid-19 immunisation programme, said recently: “On the timeline, we hope to achieve our target of getting 70 percent to 80 percent of the population inoculated within 18 months” from the start of the vaccination programme. The vaccination programme kicked off on February 24 just days ago.

Health experts say it will take at least a year for herd immunity to kick in.

So where does that leave us? Confined to our districts? Confined to our states? Not being able to see our loved ones staying elsewhere?

People can’t be going to the police station or applying for permits every time they want to make a trip. Leaving aside the inconvenience to members of the public, it’s going to burden the police force.

The policeman’s job is to go after criminals, not sit in the station approving or rejecting applications of those who want to cross state boundaries.

The government must also consider the implications of its often confusing or poorly thought-out actions. Here’s an example: It has allowed the local tour industry to operate and hotels and related outlets can now open for business, albeit with strict SOPs in place, in conditional and recovery movement control order areas.

And where will the local tourists come from if you do not allow people to cross districts and states? If I stay in, say, Batu Gajah, why would I want to book and stay in a hotel in Batu Gajah?

Let’s have some common sense please when coming up with instructions on what the public can and cannot do.

I am sure there are many people like my neighbour who need to visit ageing or ailing family members in other states. They should not be made to wait a year, or even months.

During trying times like this, family support is of utmost importance. More than ever, we need to feel secure, to know someone is watching over us, that someone loves us. This is especially so for older people.

The authorities are concerned about deaths and the damage to the economy, which is right. But they should also consider the psychological harm done by confining people in their districts or states for long periods. Humans need to see and touch and hold our loved ones; to interact with people.

Remember, Covid-19 is not going to disappear anytime soon and we all have to take calculated risks, just as we do when we cross the road. Except that we have to be much more careful and observe the health SOPs diligently.

I’m sure there’s a way to allow interstate travel while controlling the spread of the disease such as through targeted MCOs and enhanced MCOs in specific areas and allowing a limited number of passengers in a vehicle. The ministries involved should brainstorm with people in think tanks, the travel industry and others to come up with practical solutions.


Category: Malaysia

Print This Post

Comments are closed.