Lives vs livelihood: Why interstate travel ban should be lifted

CALLS for the Government to allow state borders to reopen have increased in volume as of late, especially since Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s recent acknowledgment that movement across states was not a main contributor to COVID-19 cases in the country.

In addition to benefitting other sectors that are related to the tourism industry such as shopping malls and restaurants, the re-opening up of state borders will also give the public the opportunity to travel and boost the livelihoods of those involved in the tourism sector.

Malaysian Tourists Guides Council president Jimmy Leong, in an interview with Free Malaysia Today, questioned the practicality of the ban on interstate travel. “In our country, some of the state borders are only within a hundred kilometres away from each other, and imposing a ban on interstate crossings is not practical,” he pointed out.

After all, Ismail previously revealed that the biggest cause of COVID-19 cases in the third wave was workers in the manufacturing and construction sectors. While interstate travel was admittedly one of the contributors, it is actually not the largest.

Therefore, rather than putting restrictions on interstate travel and hampering the efforts placed into boosting domestic tourism, the Government should perhaps be more focused on eliminating the spread of the coronavirus in targeted areas affiliated with the manufacturing and construction sectors.

In an earlier interview with The Star Online, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the interstate travel ban may go on until at least 70% of the population in Malaysia have been vaccinated.

He further told the news portal that the previous decision to re-allow interstate travel in December last year has resulted in outbreaks in ‘green states’, and the Government is not keen on repeating that mistake.

However, based on the vaccination schedule released by the Ministry of Health, it may take up to August or September 2021 (if we are lucky) to vaccinate around 70% of the Malaysian population (around 22 million people in Malaysia).

Will tourism-related businesses affected by the interstate travel ban be able to last that long? How many of these businesses would be left standing once the dust settles?

Many small and medium businesses that rely heavily on local tourism are barely hanging by a thread as it is, and telling them to hang on while there is no end in sight is just not fair.

In a question of life versus livelihood, the Government must, at this point of time, favour livelihood. – Mar 9, 2021


Photo credit: Mashable SEA

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