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Malaysia’s Sabah state announces stricter entry rules for travellers from China

Malaysia’s Sabah state announces stricter entry rules for travellers from China

An Airasia plane approaches to land as it flies above a water village in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on Jan 1, 2023. Amid a concern over the rise of COVID-19 cases in China, all visitors entering Malaysia will have to undergo temperature screening checks for fever. (Photo: AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KOTA KINABALU, Sabah: All travellers from China are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a negative test result taken within 48 hours of departure, before they are allowed to enter Sabah. 

These rules will be effective beginning this Sunday (Jan 8).

“This was decided at the State Cabinet meeting today,” said State Local Government and Housing Minister Masidi Manjun in a statement issued on Wednesday night.

According to the Sabah COVID-19 spokesperson, the COVID-19 test must be a RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) or RTK-Ag (rapid antigen test) professional test.

Mr Masidi said the state government also stipulated that all travellers arriving in Sabah from abroad will be screened using a thermal scanner and those with fever symptoms will undergo further check-ups.

“Travellers with COVID-19 symptoms must undergo the RTK Antigen test,” he said, according to Bernama.

He said 12 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Sabah on Wednesday. Twenty three patients had recovered while 138 patients were still receiving treatment, including 10 patients who required critical care. 

Sabah is highly dependent on Chinese visitors when it comes to tourism revenue and is expecting an influx of tourists from China where COVID-19 cases have surged in recent weeks.

The states of Sabah and Sarawak have autonomy on immigration issues.

The rise in infections in China has triggered concern around the globe and questions about its data reporting, with low official figures on cases and deaths despite some hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed.

Following the loosening of COVID-19 measures in China, several countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and France have required that all travellers from China provide negative COVID-19 tests before arrival. 

In a statement last Friday, Malaysian Health Minister Zaliha Mustafa said that all visitors entering Malaysia will have to undergo temperature screening checks

Those who are found to have a fever, are symptomatic or have self-declared their symptoms will then be sent to a quarantine centre or to the health authorities for further checks.

Additionally, those who have been to China within the last 14 days of their arrival in the country will need to undergo the rapid antigen test. These samples will then be sent for genome testing if they are found to be positive for COVID-19.

At the same time, those who have been in close contact with people who have travelled to China in the last 14 days, or exhibit influenza-like illnesses or severe acute respiratory infection will also need to be tested for COVID-19, said the minister.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said that the Malaysian government’s decision to tighten border controls is not meant to discriminate against any country. 

“We have taken the stance of not discriminating against any country… Whoever is coming in must be monitored and subject to the same conditions,” said Mr Anwar. 

He also said that the health of the people is the government’s main concern and this will not be superseded by tourism or economic growth.

According to Mr Anwar, there were 336,000 visitors from China last year, with a majority of them being tourists. He said that in the month of December last year, there were 53,000 arrivals from China. 

“There was no spike of infections that could be related to any country. This does not mean we relax rules for any country, including China. We have to monitor accordingly,” he said.

Malaysia had previously scrapped mandatory testing on all incoming vaccinated travellers on May 1. Earlier in September, mask-wearing became optional in most indoor places in the country. 

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Source: Bernama/ya(ih)

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