PM: No Covid-19 Test Mandates On Travellers From China

Anwar Ibrahim says Malaysia won’t take hasty action over a “few reports”, pointing out that the US has high Covid deaths too, but insists the government won’t compromise to protect public safety.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 – The Cabinet today decided against imposing Covid-19 restrictions on travellers arriving in Malaysia from China, unlike several countries that mandated negative pre-departure tests for Chinese visitors.

In a press conference today after the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim did not announce pre-departure or on-arrival Covid-19 test requirements either for travellers from China or for all international arrivals.

Anwar also did not announce a ban on the entry of visitors from China, despite multiple calls by Malaysians on social media to close borders against Chinese tourists.

“Now, we are deciding not to discriminate against any country because although we look at the infection rate in China that’s being publicised, we also know that Covid-19 deaths are also high in the United States, like a few other countries,” Anwar said.

When asked about Covid-19 test requirements for overseas arrivals, the prime minister said there would be temperature checks instead.

“Controls are tightened, but not based on country because as we know, visitors may be coming from Indonesia but visited China in the previous month, for example,” said Anwar, without elaborating on how border protocols would be tightened.

“These matters are more complex. We don’t want to take hasty action just because of a few reports. If you look at it globally, the problem is more comprehensive. What is important is that we do not compromise to safeguard the people’s safety.”

The international community, including the World Health Organization, has expressed concern about the lack of information from Chinese authorities on the Covid-19 epidemic, including virus genome sequencing data, amid anecdotal reports of overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums in China. 

According to global tracker OurWorldInData, daily confirmed Covid-19 cases peaked last December 21 in the United States with about 70,000 cases on average. However, China ceased reporting infections last December 25, ahead of Beijing’s decision to reopen international borders from January 8.

In terms of Covid-19 deaths, the United States reported about 449 fatalities yesterday, based on a seven-day average, much lower than a peak of more than 2,500 daily deaths in early February 2022. China has claimed zero or less than one daily Covid-19 death on average since June, before ceasing reporting since December 25, 2022.

Anwar pointed out today that 336,000 travellers from China, mostly tourists, visited Malaysia in 2022, including 53,000 last December.

“We don’t see any spike in infections in any country.”

Based on OurWorldInData figures, new confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malaysia rose to a peak of nearly 4,000 daily infections early last November, though not anywhere near as high as the Omicron wave that saw over 30,000 daily infections early last March.

New Zealand has also decided not to impose mandatory Covid-19 tests on travellers from China – unlike the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, and various other countries. 

The New Zealand government, however, will randomly test arrivals from China in coming weeks – on a voluntary basis – besides considering wastewater surveillance on incoming flights.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said yesterday that temperature checks would be conducted in airports for all international arrivals, regardless of where their flights originated from. The coronavirus can be transmitted by people who do not yet show symptoms.

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