KUCHING, Feb 9 — Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah believes it is still not time to lift the interstate travel ban between Sarawak and other states for the purpose of reviving the tourism industry.

Expressing concern over the number of Covid-19 cases daily, he said even if the ban was lifted people would still be reluctant to travel due to restrictions that have been put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“I think it is not appropriate and not the time now to open up our state borders,” he told a press conference after officiating at the Prihatin Youth Programme 2021.

“Even if you open up the borders, I don’t think travellers or foreigners will be visiting due to restrictions in place, such as the requirement to be quarantined first.”

Abdul Karim was asked to comment on former Minister in the Prime Minister Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s appeal to the government to lift the ban between Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak in order to revive the tourism industry in the eastern states.

“As much as I would love to see the opening up of borders, where foreigners and those from other states could visit to boost the tourism industry, we must also assess the Covid-19 situation we are currently facing now, with daily new cases being in the thousands in the country,” Abdul Karim said.

Yesterday, Malaysia recorded 3,731 cases of Covid-19 bringing the infection tally to 242,452 cases. The country has also recorded a total of 112 deaths, including 15 yesterday.

Meanwhile, Abdul Karim said the purpose of the Prihatin Youth Programme 2021 was to enhance the state’s youth development initiative, and inculcate virtues of responsibility and caring for the disadvantaged community and promoting the spirit of volunteerism.

“The youth plays an important role in realising the agenda of a united and balanced society, in line with the ministry vision of ‘World Class Youth and Sports for All by 2030’,” he said.

Abdul Karim, who is also the Youth and Sports Minister, also handed over grants amounting RM120,000 to 12 welfare organisations during the event.

The recipients were Pusat Jagaan Nur Murni, Rumah Kanak-kanak Toh Puan Hajah Norkiah, Lembaga Kebajikan Anak-Anak Yatim Sarawak, The Salvation Army Kuching Boy’s Home, Pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (PDK) Samarahan, PDK Harmoni Asajaya, Sarawak Society for the Deaf, Sarawak Society for the Blind, Persatuan Kebajikan Kanak-kanak Terencat Akal Sarawak (Perkata), Society for Kuching Urban Poor, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Baiturrahmah Kuching and Pusat Pemulihan Penagihan Narkotik (Puspen) Kuching.

A total of RM80,000 was also presented to eight boarding schools, which are SMK Asajaya, SMK Hajjah Laila Taib, SMK Tun Abang Haji Openg, SMK Agama Tun Ahmad Zaidi, SMK Agama Sheikh Haji Othman Abdul Wahab, SMK Agama Matang 2, SMK Balai Ringin and SMK Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Hajah Normah.

Abdul Karim said his ministry would also be donating face masks and hand sanitizers to the eight boarding schools.

Among those in attendance was Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Snowdan Lawan, Daru assemblyman Safiee Ahmad and Tupong assemblyman Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman. — Borneo Post