Borders must remain shut to foreign tourists until local Covid-19 cases contained

PUTRAJAYA: It is imperative that Malaysia continue to maintain its tight border controls to contain and break the chain of Covid-19 infection, before opening its doors to foreign tourists.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this is especially crucial, following the emergence of new cases from the Kurau and Sivagangga clusters.

He said issues that would need to be studied before embarking on a move to open borders to citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Japan and Korea, include the current Covid-19 situation in each country and the formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for arrivals.

“So far, we are not ready to open our borders yet, but discussions between these countries, such as the standardisation of SOPs, can continue. Nonetheless, our priority is to enhance border control and ensure we can stop the local transmissions first.

“(We will soon) open up (cross-border travel between Malaysia and Singapore, expected to take place on Aug 17) but travellers have to comply with the SOPs.

“The opening is only for the business community, not for the public,” he said during a press conference at the ministry today.

On another matter, Dr Noor Hisham encouraged the use of face shields for school children as recommended by Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today.

Dr Noor Hisham said the face shields could offer protection, although there is no clinical evidence to prove that it could help avert Covid-19 infection.

“It is better to wear face shields than not have them on at all. So we encourage that (use of face shields) or the use of face masks, which have been proven to be able to break transmission by up to 60 to 65 per cent.”

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said they are investigating the possibility that a local man, who tested positive for Covid-19 recently, was infected again after returning home from Indonesia on May 7.

The man was the sole case of local transmission in Malaysia on Saturday. He was reported to have been infected before returning to the country.

“So far, there is no hard evidence to show that the person was infected for the second time.

“We are investigating to find out whether the patient had any contact with those who returned from Indonesia, or if he was exposed to positive cases.

“The infection this time may not be from Indonesia, but that was his travel history.

“Is there a possibility to get infected for the second time? Yes, but it depends on the serology, which is the antibody response of an individual who was exposed to the virus,” he added.

Source: NST