TANGKAK, Feb 11 ― The Cabinet has yet to discuss the National Recovery Council (MPN)’s proposal to reopen the country’s borders by March 1, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said that, so far, the Health Ministry had yet to provide feedback on the proposal to the Cabinet for evaluation.

“We must find a balance between wanting to protect the tourism industry and the people’s health, so the Health Ministry will look into it in detail and propose to the Cabinet on the next step.

“As of today, our borders are still closed… there’s no discussion yet to reopen,” Ismail Sabri, who is also Umno vice-president, said when met by reporters after a meet-and-greet programme with Ledang Barisan Nasional (BN) election machinery at Dewan Putra Padang Lerek here today.

Also present were Johor Mentri Besar cum Umno liaison committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad and Ledang Umno chief Datuk Hamim Samuri. 

On Tuesday, MPN chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was reported to have said that it had recommended to the government to fully reopen the country’s international borders by as early as March 1.

Ismail Sabri said the government, thus far, had only reopened the Malaysia-Singapore border in Johor via the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL).

According to him, the government was aware of the woes faced by the tourism industry entrepreneurs, who have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but did not want the entry of foreign tourists to cause a spike in cases in the country.

“I have friends (from my time serving as a minister) in the Tourism Ministry… friends who say they cannot survive, tour drivers who depend on income gained from ferrying travellers. Now, there are none (tourists), they cannot survive.

“Perhaps we can see now that the government is still providing assistance (in terms of) wage subsidy to workers but we do not pay much, only RM600. This is meant to help but we do not know how much longer they can survive.

“That’s why we may eventually reopen the borders but, to do that, we have to get the advice from the Health Ministry. Yes, it’s true we want to reopen the borders because we want to assist the tourism industry, but we also want to protect the health of Malaysians. If the travellers who come here are infected, then it will only expedite the increase in the number of cases and endanger our people’s health,” he said. ― Bernama