Interstate travel ban likely to stay

PETALING JAYA: The interstate travel ban is likely to last until Hari Raya Aidilfitri as the Health Ministry has recommended an extension of the conditional and recovery movement control orders.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the ministry anticipated a need to extend the restrictions beyond the expiry date on Wednesday.

“Based on the current situation in our country and concerns about the existence of a new (South African) Covid-19 variant, we need to strictly implement measures to curb and contain the spread of the virus.

“The Health Ministry is of the view that there is a need to extend the conditional and recovery MCOs that are currently in place, ” he said when contacted yesterday.

During the Hari Raya Aidilfitri season last year, the government had banned interstate balik kampung trips and large-scale open houses due to the ongoing MCO then.

Although he did not elaborate on how much of an MCO extension the ministry would be recommending, he hinted that travel curbs could go beyond Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which is expected to fall on May 13.

“I think the Senior Minister (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob) has already announced that there would be no interstate travel until after Hari Raya Aidilfitri, ” Dr Adham said.

Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said an announcement will be made tomorrow (Apr 27) and that the National Security Council will discuss the extension in their meeting.

“We will announce it tomorrow (Apr 27), ” Ismail Sabri said when contacted.

“We make recommendations based on public health actions in preventing the outbreak and controlling the pandemic, ” said Dr Adham.

Previously, Dr Adham had proposed that interstate travel for Hari Raya be postponed because of the worrying level of Covid-19 infections.

When asked if inter-district travel would be allowed, he said that so far, the government was only going with an interstate travel ban except for Sabah and Kelantan, which have already put in place inter-district travel bans.

The conditional MCO in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, and Penang, and the recovery MCO in Perlis, Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, Labuan, Perak, Negri Sembilan and Kedah were initially slated to end on Wednesday.

Kelantan, which has seen a sharp rise in infections, is under the MCO until Thursday.

The MCO is usually implemented for a two-week period, meaning that the next extension could possibly be from April 29 until May 12, which is expected to be the eve of Hari Raya.

Last Friday, Ismail Sabri also said that the interstate travel ban would continue since many Covid-19 cases resulted from such movement.

Currently, the government only allows interstate travel with police permission for employment, medical and educational purposes from Mondays to Thursdays.

Interstate travel from Fridays to Saturdays is allowed with a police permit only in cases of emergencies, marriages or deaths.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said the country should continue to be under the MCO until infectivity rates or the R0 (R-naught) goes below 1.0, where each infected person infects fewer than one new person.

“We have no choice. It’s either the devil or the deep blue sea.

“As much as it is sad that we have to forbid interstate travel during the festivities, we must do it as we don’t want the infection spreading to kampung folk and the elderly, ” he said.

Dr Raj Kumar added that the situation was still unpredictable as the virus continued to mutate, and urged Malaysians to follow standard operating procedures until the country could be sure that vaccinations were reducing the spread.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar recommended that interstate travel be limited according to zones such as northern, east coast and southern.

“Malaysians have been hoping to see their families to celebrate Hari Raya. A total MCO is not needed in every state.

“Inter-district travel ban should also be allowed for certain districts in certain states only, and not every state, ” he said.

Looking at the current upward trend of cases, Dr Zainal Ariffin cautioned that the MCO could last until next year.

“Vaccinating 80% of the population will help but we also need to assess the situation again in the future, ” he said.

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