Malaysia likely to keep borders closed until next year

malaysia tourism

Wary of recurring coronavirus waves, Malaysia may keep its borders closed to international tourists until the second quarter of next year, the minister responsible for the travel sector said in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review.

Nancy Shukri, the minister of tourism, arts and culture, said the government is now re-drafting a “green” list of countries deemed safe from the virus, as a first step.

“We initially had a list of countries to be allowed in, but then we saw the second and third waves of coronavirus in some of these countries,” she told the Nikkei Asian Review. “So, we have to revise our plan.”

Nancy said the reopening of Malaysia’s border with Singapore for essential travel, which began August 17, was a positive step. At the same time, she suggested the restrictions on crossings show the Malaysian government remains cautious and will do whatever it takes to protect the public from the deadly virus.

“Even if we open our borders now, some countries are not prepared to do so, thus travel cannot happen,” she said, adding that the ministry is also in discussions with foreign missions in the country.

In a news conference on Tuesday, the director-general of Malaysia’s health ministry, Noor Hisham Abdullah, called not for a further reopening of the borders but a renewed clampdown. He said the country should not be allowing inbound or outbound travel for the medium term, to safeguard the interests of all Malaysians.

Noor said the concern stems from infection spikes in “countries that once upon a time were the gold standard, like Korea. If they are having challenges, we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “So, we need not ease our borders, but tighten them further.”