KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Malaysia could realistically fully reopen its borders in the second quarter of this year, but the actual reopening date would be announced by the prime minister, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said.

According to local daily The Star, Khairy said the Health Ministry would come up with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the border reopening, and that such SOPs would have to go through several stages in order to be approved.

“I will present the SOP to the Covid-19 pandemic management committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and to the quartet of ministers led by Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

“Finally, I will present it to the Cabinet for the approval as it involves a huge national policy, as the decision to open up the country’s borders is not under the Health Ministry,” he was quoted saying by The Star.

As for when Malaysia would reopen its borders, Khairy was quoted saying: “It could be in the early second quarter of this year but only the Prime Minister can make such an announcement.”

Separately, news portal Astro Awani similarly reported Khairy as saying that the Health Ministry would need about two weeks to prepare the SOPs for the border reopening and that the borders would not necessarily be reopened immediately after the proposed SOPs are completed.

He explained that the decision was not for the Health Ministry alone to make, but that it has to go through several stages before being presented to the Cabinet for approval.

“But I predict, two weeks for us to complete, maybe the second quarter is a realistic timeline, but let the prime minister determine the date,” he was quoted saying by Astro Awani.

The second quarter covers the months of April to June.

On February 8, the National Recovery Council --- chaired by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ---- proposed for Malaysia’s borders to be fully opened as early as March 1 without requiring mandatory quarantine but with Covid-19 testing pre-departure and upon arrival in Malaysia still required.

Muhyiddin yesterday clarified that the proposal was agreed to by members of the National Recovery Council, and said that Khairy was present during the meeting where the council members agreed to the proposal.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the Health Ministry has been given two to three weeks to present its proposal to the Cabinet for a decision to be made on whether to fully reopen Malaysia’s borders or to reopen with restrictions involving selected countries.