1 December 2021
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has complained of the cost of Covid-19 tests for incoming travellers, saying it will discourage travel into Malaysia.
Matta secretary-general Faeez Fadhlillah said this was despite “significant decreases” in global prices over the past two years.
“The high cost, combined with the excessive number of tests needed to enter Malaysia and the long quarantine period, will deter tourists from coming to Malaysia,” he said.
A source who declined to be named asked why the government had effectively granted a private healthcare company a monopoly to provide Covid-19 screening services at eight facilities at KLIA and KLIA2.
He also questioned the “tremendous” price increase of the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, which is mandatory for all incoming travellers.
He noted that other countries were charging much less.
At the start of the pandemic, the cost of RT-PCR testing conducted on arrival at KLIA was US$36 while Singapore charged US$117, Dubai US$100, Thailand US$90, Indonesia US$63 and India US$60.
However, the cost of RT-PCR testing at KLIA is now between US$60 and US$90 for Malaysians and US$88 to US$112 for foreigners, with all the tests conducted by the private healthcare company. Singapore now charges US$90, Thailand US$42 to US$48, Indonesia US$19 to US$21, Dubai US$13 and India US$4.
“The cost for RT-PCR testing at a normal clinic in Malaysia is just between US$43 and US$60,” the source said. “The dual pricing for Malaysians and foreigners also does not make sense.”
Faeez noted that while many countries had started to accept antigen rapid tests (RTK-Ag) for travellers upon arrival, Malaysia remained one of the few still requiring up to three RT-PCR tests before travellers were allowed to enter the country.
Among the countries in the region that have given the green light for RTK-Ag tests for incoming travellers are Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
However, the newly identified Omicron Covid-19 variant has seen Singapore and the Philippines revert to RT-PCR tests and Thailand is now rethinking plans to use RTK-Ag tests from Dec 16.
Pointing out that tourism accounted for close to 25% of Malaysian jobs before the pandemic, Faeez said any deterrent would “definitely be a setback” for the government’s Covid-19 recovery plan.
“One must remember that Malaysia is among the top 10 most vaccinated countries in the world. But when it comes to the reopening of borders to tourists, we remain one of the slowest,” he said.
Launched on Sept 20, the health screening facilities at KLIA and KLIA2 are reportedly able to cater to 45,000 travellers daily.
FMT is contacting the health ministry and the private healthcare company for their comments.