6 March 2022
– By Rosli Khan
My friend and I arrived at KLIA a few days ago on an international flight. What we went through, just before reaching the immigration counter, was horrific, to say the least.
After coming down the escalator, we were stuck in a big crowd of other passengers, our way forward blocked by the people in charge, two men dressed in Covid PPE gear, one of them shouting loudly to arriving passengers, “Sejahtera, Sejahtera. Load your Sejahtera.”
My friend, who is also Malaysian, looked at me in disbelief. Surely that’s not the way to handle international passengers.
I decided to push my way to the front and asked the official, in Malay, what the fuss was about. He said to me abruptly: “Open your Sejahtera (app) and update it. You don’t update, you cannot enter.”
Really? Now a requirement to update your phone in order to enter Malaysia? Under what new law is that? What if you don’t have a phone? Why didn’t they make it known earlier, announce it properly while we were in flight, instead of springing a surprise and having this person shouting at us?
I noticed that most of the foreigners in the crowd looked bewildered. Some had never downloaded the MySejahtera app before.
Anyway, we tried to update the app. After a few failed attempts, finally we managed to get it right and showed it to this “powerful” man.
What he did next really bothered me. He pressed an icon on my phone, went through a couple of menus, pressed one of them, and then let us through to the escalator.
The page that appeared on the phone now showed red and said in smaller letters that we are to undergo home quarantine. That was not right.
Immediately, after the escalator there were many long queues of people not knowing what to do. There was no signboard at all. We decided to join one of the shorter queues.
Put on home quarantine
After about 20 minutes we came to a desk manned by two ladies. We showed them our phones and passports and asked why we were now put on home quarantine.
The reply was shocking. “Everyone has to go for quarantine.”
We argued that we had read an announcement that those who have had Covid and are now negative, could return to Malaysia without having to go for quarantine.
Only then did she ask for our documents. We showed them to her and she looked at them briefly before she disappeared to another desk. After about 15 minutes, she came back and asked us more questions: where were we from, whether we were hospitalised, did we have any letters from doctors to certify that we could travel and all that strange stuff.
My friend explained that we didn’t go into hospital as our Covid case was mild, and that we had both tested positive and then negative, within a period of five days.
The documents in Bahasa were all there. Despite bearing the clinic’s letterhead with an address below it, she asked which country was this from. We both replied Jakarta, though we should have actually said Indonesia.
Sent to another queue
She looked upset but nevertheless took a piece of sticky paper, wrote post-Covid on it and stuck it on our passports, and gestured to us to join the next queue, without even bothering to look at us.
This is all very strange, we thought. Anyway, we went ahead to join the shorter queue. Another ten minutes of waiting was not that bad, I thought.
We handed our passports to a guy who had a laptop in front of his desk. I mentioned that my phone showed red and said I was to undergo home quarantine but the sticker on my passport said post-Covid.
He asked for my IC number and keyed it into his laptop. After a few minutes, he ushered me to a breath test machine manned by a lady in a nursing uniform. After a short explanation, the nurse instructed me to blow into it, as if I was trying to blow a balloon.
After about 60 seconds or possibly less, the nurse declared that I was negative, which was a big relief.
Fiddling with the phone
The guy with the laptop took my phone, meddled with it for a while, then handed it back to me while my friend went through the breath test.
He told me to wait for two minutes before pressing the update icon on the phone. After about 5 minutes and two attempts, a fresh page appeared and the red and nasty home quarantine page disappeared.
My friend also got a fresh page since he was also negative, as confirmed by the nurse.
We were released immediately and this was announced by the guy with the laptop via a small piece of paper with MyEg on its logo.
While we were walking towards the immigration counter, my friend said the whole process had taken almost two and half hours after we had landed.
Questions for the authorities
My main questions are: Why was no announcement given in advance? Why were there no signboards in multiple languages so that arriving passengers would know what to do?
Instead, many passengers were abused by the authority’s staff and treated as if they weren’t educated with regards to the app adopted by Malaysia.
None of the queues had any signs to indicate what they were for.
As post-Covid travellers, we could have been easily separated from other passengers right from the start if the authorities bothered to put up a proper sign, saving a lot of time, heartache and resources.
We wouldn’t have had to argue our case, as the procedure would be clear and standardised for staff to execute.
There was no need for the staff to be upset with us. Why all the fuss and lengthy procedures? The process could be simplified, still regulated and monitored, but with the time-wasting part eliminated.
Questions about quarantine tags
On the way out, we noticed the longest queue of all, for passengers to collect their electronic tag for home quarantine.
How much does it cost our government for these tagging devices, I wonder. We are certain that public funds were used to pay for these items. Are they necessary? Is someone’s crony involved?
Are the authorities really interested in reopening the international gateway so that everyone in the country can benefit, or are we just interested in enriching a few cronies on the pretext of fighting Covid-19?
I urge the minister in charge to pay a visit to KLIA and see the deplorable process, the unnecessary queues and the rude frontliners for himself.
Otherwise, don’t bother with the reopening of the borders.
– The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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