‘Travel ban is temporary’

PETALING JAYA: As reports emerge of the Covid-19 Omicron variant spreading globally, the government will be assessing the situation daily and broadening travel restrictions.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malawi has been added to the list of countries under temporary travel restrictions as of Dec 1. Other countries currently on the list are South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The temporary travel restriction only applies to non-Malaysians from these countries. Malaysians and those holding long-term passes, including permanent residency status, spouse visa, MM2H, and residence passes, will not be barred from entry.

However, they will be required to undergo a compulsory 14-day quarantine regardless of their vaccination status, he said.

“They will also need to undergo a RT-PCR test 72 hours before flying and after arriving at the international travel gates and on the 10th day of quarantine.

“A risk assessment will be conducted on the 14th day and the quarantine period will be extended if there are symptoms,” he said.

Malaysians will also not be allowed to travel to the countries on the list and entry of international students and foreign workers from these countries will be postponed.

Khairy said the countries were placed on the list based on whether the Omicron coronavirus variant spread from an imported case or community transmission.

“We also looked at the country’s vaccination rate and whether there was a risk of high transmission in a short time.

“If the vaccination rate is low and the community spread is wide, then the ministry’s risk assessment is to put the country on the list, but if the transmission is due to imported cases and is low, and the country has a high vaccination rate, then we will not add it to the list,” he said during yesterday’s press conference.

This assessment will be reviewed daily by the ministry, he said, adding that the steps are taken as a precautionary measure and not to punish the countries on the list.

“The ministry will also prepare a list of countries recognised as ‘at high risk of Omicron variant infections’ for distribution to relevant agencies on a daily basis,” he said.

He pointed out that this was only a temporary measure until more information is available about the variant.

“If we find that it is not a threat to public health then we will loosen the restrictions once again.

“This is in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation not to overreact to the variant of concern and to respond in a proportionate manner and to continue to share information while updating measures,” he said.

When asked if the government would also impose temporary travel restrictions on the United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands and Australia following reports of suspected community transmissions of the Omicron variant, Khairy said the government still needs more information before completing a risk assessment.

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