Covid-19: Allow targeted interstate travel as emerging clusters not due to domestic tourism, says hotel association

PETALING JAYA: The government should allow targeted and controlled interstate travel because the clusters triggered since the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were not due to domestic tourism movement, says the Malaysia Hotel Association (MAH).

It said that the same situation was also under control during the recovery movement control order that was implemented from June to September last year.

“The tourism industry, especially hotels, have complied with all standard operating procedures (SOP) determined by the government and the National Security Council.

“MAH has also introduced the Clean & Safe Malaysia hygiene and health certification for the accommodation sector, the only one supported by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, ” it said in a statement on Monday (March 22).

Earlier, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the country recorded 3,170 Covid-19 cases that were caused by people travelling and crossing state borders from Jan 1 to March 21.

He added that clusters triggered by cross-border travel had demonstrated an increase since the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that began on Sept 20 last year.

Quoting the ministry’s report, MAH said between Dec 7 last year and Sunday (March 21), a total of 5,038 cases were linked to cross-state clusters, or about 1.5% of the total cases.

Among them, 3,170 cases were a result of cross-border activities since January 1, equivalent to 0.95% of the total number of cases in the country.

“Although the number seems high, a large number of them came from the Tembok Mempaga cluster in Pahang with 808 cases, the Pasai cluster in Sarawak with 2,693 cases and the Tembok Bukit Besi cluster in Terengganu with 443 cases.

“The Tembok Mempaga cluster involved the transfer of a new detainee to the Bentong prison while the Pasai cluster involved individuals who did not follow the quarantine instructions at Rumah Panjang Langi.

“The Tembok Bukit Besi cluster was related to the Dungun correctional centre. These three clusters alone accounted for 3,944 cases.

“It is clear that the high prevalence of Covid-19 cases involving cross-state activities is not due to domestic tourism movements, ” it said, adding that targeted and controlled state travel should be allowed.

It said MAH has also submitted additional SOP proposals to the Tourism Ministry with a mechanism to coordinate movement using hotel check-in time and MySejahtera application either by private vehicle or flight.

“Hotel accommodation has proven to be safe over the years and can be made a mandatory requirement for cross-state mobility.”

MAH noted that the government may also grant cross-state permits to individuals attending meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions with early registration and hotel room reservations.

“Covid-19 screening may also be a requirement to obtain cross-state clearance, ” it added.

Reiterating that the tourism industry is among the most affected, MAH said the industry desperately needs space to generate revenue to maintain the viability of the industry and the 3.6 million people working in the industry.

“The domestic market is the industry’s only hope to survive until international tourism recovers, which is expected to take longer, ” it added.

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