8 March 2022
From Poologasingam Tharumasingam
I refer to the National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre’s (CPRC) reply to Rosli Khan’s column on his horrific experience at KLIA.
CPRC’s reply – that incomplete travel documents are among the reasons for airport delays – is truly rubbish and besides the point.
My wife and I came back from Bangkok on March 5, leaving Bangkok time at 5.05pm and reaching Malaysia at 8.25pm.
Prior to leaving, we were requested to get approval to undergo home quarantine for four to 10 days in order to proceed.
We were also asked to take a PCR test before departure, according to Thai rules, with a validity of 72 hours upon arrival in Malaysia. We did this as well.
A friend who left two days earlier to Malaysia told us that it was mandatory to do another PCR test in Malaysia upon arrival. This has to be done at the official Covid-19 test provider at KLIA, and the cost would range from RM250-RM370.
I was shocked and concerned as to why we had to pay so much for coming back to our own home.
I was not satisfied with this situation and contacted the National Security Council (MKN) via email to verify. MKN was helpful, providing me with details and saying that if you are a returning citizen, you are given a free PCR test.
Still unsure of the whole process, we decided to see if we could get the free PCR test accorded to citizens.
The journey was quite good given the bad weather in Malaysia, and we landed safely.
Before we got on the shuttle service to get to the main terminal, we had to scan our MySejahtera app and fill in the same information that we had given when we applied for home quarantine.
At the main terminal, before immigration service, we saw two staff members of the Covid-19 test provider greeting passengers and giving directions to the test centre for those who had registered earlier. There was no sign of any CPRC personnel at all.
At the immigration area, we were overwhelmed by a scene of people in long queues.
There was a CPRC officer on duty who looked overwhelmed and tired, ushering everyone to follow the queue and asking them if they had updated their status on the MySejahtera app.
I told my wife that this must be the queue for transit passengers. To my horror, it was not.
We were already tired after spending almost nine hours travelling and waiting in both Bangkok and Malaysia.
Finally, we decided to go to the official PCR test provider, and do the test quickly so we could move to immigration, customs and baggage claim.
We had to wait for 45 minutes because we did not pre-register.
We took the test and asked the staff repeatedly if we would be able to proceed to immigration. They assured us that it would be quick and we would not have to wait at the long queue.
We were disappointed again and ended up in another long queue where CPRC officers were checking documents.
I was not happy and demanded to know why we had to pay RM250 each to end up in the same situation. Those in my group also asked why there was no separate queue for those who went to the official test provider.
A senior CPRC officer who had just come on duty was nearby and we told him our predicament. At first his response was defensive, and then he said he could not do anything because he had just come in to work and did not know what was happening there at the moment.
He walked away and came back five minutes later and said he had arranged another counter for those who had gone to the official test provider.
We queued up there and gave them our documents, which were approved, and walked to the immigration counter.
The immigration counter was a fast process and then we started walking to the customs area.
Finally, after 11 gruelling hours, we got into a taxi and went back home.
My questions to the authorities are as follows:
- Why can’t they have another lane or two to handle those with incomplete travel documents?
- Why does the official Covid-19 test provider not say explicitly that the PCR test is free for Malaysians?
- Why can’t they have a separate lane or two for those who went to the official test provider?
- Why can’t they have separate lanes for citizens and foreigners?
I hope they do something about this soon. We want travellers to be happy enjoying their vacation or work.
The writer is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
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