Despite pandemic, Sabah to reopen border with ‘practically green’ Brunei this festive season to boost economy

Visitors pose for pictures near the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront September 30, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Visitors pose for pictures near the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront September 30, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU, Dec 9 ― Sabah is planning to reopen its border with Brunei in hopes international tourists will visit and spend their money here during the year-end holiday and give the local economy a much-needed boost.

Sabah Covid-19 spokesman Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the state has agreed to allow tourists from Brunei to enter, either by land or air, but did not announce a date.

“The reason why we are allowing visitors from Brunei in is simply because they have not had any new cases or infections for the last 215 days,” he told a news conference here this evening.

The number of days works out to roughly seven months.

“It is practically a green country so we feel the threat is not there or that it’s manageable,” Masidi added.

However, the local government and housing minister said Sabah has conditions for its visitors from abroad.

They include a mandatory Covid-19 RT-PCR  swab test three days before travelling. This is also required for Malaysians from the peninsula keen to enter Sabah.

Masidi said the Sabah government would evaluate whether or not to allow other countries in at a later stage.

“For now, we are opening up cautiously, knowing a mistake would put us back where we were before the situation was put under control. We have to ensure our actions doesn’t jeopardise the good work the health authorities have been doing in Sabah,” he said.

Sabah has barred long-term pass holders from India, Indonesia and the Philippines from entering the state.

Visitors from 23 other countries not currently allowed include: the US, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Colombia, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iran, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Turkey, Italy, Germany and Iraq.

Sabah has consistently been in the top five states with the highest daily infections since its state election in September, which the Health Ministry has said was responsible for Malaysia’s third and biggest wave of Covid-19 cases.

The state has been under a conditional movement control order since October 13.

Inter-district travel is prohibited and movement in and out of the state is also severely restricted.

However, it recently relaxed travel requirements, allowing Malaysians from other states and long term pass holders to enter for social visits, barring any symptoms or evidence of Covid-19.

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