Getting testy upon arrival


Easy does it: A health worker carrying out an RT-PCR Covid-19 test at KLIA. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian travellers arriving in the country are fuming that they have to pay for an expensive professional RTK-Antigen test at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) when they had already done a pre-departure PCR test.

They also questioned the need for the on-arrival test when Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines have stopped it or have announced that they will halt doing so soon.

Cindy Foo, 35, who returned from Jakarta, said she had to do the RTK-Antigen test at the airport on April 1.

“We had to wait for the test at KLIA. I don’t understand why we have to be tested again when we had already taken the pre-departure test,” she said yesterday.

Another traveller from Singapore, Muhamad Hamid, 39, also questioned the need to do the test again.

“It would be easier for us if they scrap the on-arrival testing just like other countries in the region,” he added.

There are several types of on-arrival Covid-19 test options available at KLIA and klia2, with the professional RTK-Antigen (nasal) test costing RM100 for Malaysians and RM160 for foreigners.

The normal cost in a clinic would be around RM60 to RM70.

It takes between 15 and 30 minutes for the test results to be out.

For the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test, Malaysians are charged RM250 while international travellers pay RM350. It usually costs between RM180 and RM250.

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As for the rapid RT-PCR test, it will cost RM370 for Malaysians while foreigners pay RM470. The usual price is below RM350.

Private Covid-19 screening provider BP Healthcare is the sole company handling Covid-19 RT-PCR screening services, which is mandatory for all incoming travellers at KLIA and klia2.

Malaysian Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB), however, has denied claims that the RTK testing at international airports was monopolised by one company.

A senior official said there were four different health service providers at four international airports – KLIA, Penang International Airport, Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Kuching International Airport.

From April 1, fully vaccinated travellers entering Malaysia are required to undergo a PCR test two days before departure and will also have to undergo a professional RTK-Antigen test within 24 hours upon arrival.

AirAsia Malaysia chief executive officer Riad Asmat said that while it welcomed the reopening of international borders, many Asean countries have made the journey easier by simplifying testing regimes for travellers.

“Cambodia, for example, has completely removed any testing requirement, while travellers to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines are required to undertake one Covid-19 test (either pre-departure or on-arrival),” he said.

He noted that in Malaysia, although the pre-departure PCR test requirement remains, travellers have to undergo the RTK-Antigen test within 24 hours of arrival.

“This provides greater flexibility and eases the travel process.

“As the pandemic situation continues to evolve, travel processes and regulations such as the number and type of tests could also be reviewed periodically to ensure their relevance, without burdening travellers,” he added.

He said as Covid-19 tests become increasingly essential for travellers, the affordability of the mandatory testing would also affect the attractiveness of Malaysia as a preferred tourism destination.

“Cheaper PCR and RTK tests will reduce the cost for travellers and support a more effective recovery of the tourism and aviation industry, without compromising public health.

“Allowing more health service providers to offer testing services at Malaysian airports will encourage competition and increase efficiency of test services available,” said Riad.

Malaysia Aviation Group said that it stands guided by the government’s directives and appreciates its intervention to simplify the SOP so that travellers are able to enter Malaysia safely.

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