21 March 2022
– Letter by Bhavani Krishna Iyer
“IT IS URGENT THAT RETAILERS START PLANNING FOR THE OPENING OF BORDERS IN APRIL, AND IT IS INCUMBENT ON THE GOVERNMENT TO EXTEND A HELPING HAND TO OPERATORS THAT MAY HAVE GONE BUST DUE TO THE PANDEMIC.”
I HAVE been reading with interest the debate in the media on how bad the Covid-19-related controls are being implemented at airports in Kuala Lumpur.
I have landed thrice at KL International Airport (KLIA), in December, January and March; and once at klia2 in February. On all three occasions, my admiration went out to the parties involved as each arrival and dispersal had been nothing but quick and pleasant.
There have been a lot of criticisms about MySejahtera being the bane of all issues when it should be otherwise, and I too had my share of frustrations in using the application. Granted that it is a mean task to manage the updates and everything else that goes with it, it serves an important purpose in monitoring Covid-19, although I have doubts if it actually does anything to control the spread.
If you look at all websites and portals related to arrival requirements in Malaysia, it clearly states that the downloading of MySejahtera and registration is mandatory, and it should be up and working before arrival in Malaysia.
I agree that there are digitally unsavvy travellers who may have a problem with this but help is available at the airport for such cases. One must understand that when a crowd of travellers with zero digital knowledge arrive from a particular destination, it becomes a bit of a mess at the airport, which can be avoided with a little more planning in advance.
Compare this with Singapore, there is absolutely no help. Everyone is for themselves and without the MyTrace application, no one gets into Singapore. Yet, there is no hue and cry, one simply needs to seek assistance from whoever or wherever before arriving in Singapore.
I suppose we are living in unprecedented times and it is a matter of adopting to the new normal and order, and we have to respect and abide by the destination country’s requirements.
I wish to state that all agencies at the Malaysian airports have been doing their best. Having said that, the pricing and complete autonomy for the PCR test is a cause for gripe. When I arrived at klia2 from Singapore via the Vaccinated Travel Lane, those who had pre-booked their PCR were whisked away without much ado. Others had to purchase online, having two options – for Malaysians, the 1.5-hour wait for PCR was RM370 and 3-hour wait was tagged at RM250, for Singaporeans it was much more.
I took the shorter wait option and my result arrived on WhatsApp and email about an hour after the test. Considering the fact that the flight from Singapore was at 7am, we had to wake up as early as 3.30am and most people took the quick result option, obviously.
The rights for the PCR test at the airport is awarded to just one entity, who had price-tagged their services exorbitantly. It is sad that all parties involved in the array of services related to the pandemic is rolling in money at the expense of the public. Just the PCR requirement by Malaysia for VTL flights can cost up to RM700 to RM800 per person, which is costlier than the flights both ways.
I have just returned from a week in India and apart from the need to show the vaccination records, there was no test needed for entering the country. This makes it affordable for the average income earner to start visiting places, which had been put off for more than two years now.
People are waiting to start living their lives and the least the government can do is to make it less monetarily punitive. Furthermore, both KLIA and klia2 need to wake up – there is hardly any food and beverage outlet, and its ghostly appearance is a definite put off for travellers compared with the airports in Doha, Colombo, Singapore and Chennai that are buzzing with activities.
Aside from the fact that things may look brighter after the opening of Malaysian borders in April, the wake-up call is urgent for retailers to start planning for the opening. Many of them may have gone bust due to the pandemic and it is incumbent on the government to extend a helping hand to the operators.
The world is moving on and we may be left behind to a point where we can never catch up if we do not move forward.
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