KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — A little over two years ago on March 18, 2020, Malaysia closed its borders. Like so many other countries around the world, this national lockdown was an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19 into the country.

Today, as part of efforts to move to the endemic stage of Covid-19, Malaysia is reopening its borders.

There is plenty of optimism all around that this will help boost the economy and move us towards normalcy; tourists, foreign workers, investors all will hopefully return.

However, not everyone is feeling keen about the decision to reopen the country’s borders. After all, Covid-19 is still very much here with daily cases still in the thousands and deaths in the double digits.

Reports have emerged that many Malaysians are already starting to take Covid-19 SOPs for granted.

On social media, many have confessed to not scanning their MySejahtera status properly when entering an enclosed premise as no one is checking.

They have also admitted to feeling desensitised to the rules, seeing as to how many political leaders, high ranking officials in government and VVIP’s have been found flaunting the SOPs only to be slapped with a fine, repeatedly.

Then there are reports of fake vaccination certificates.

If all this is already happening, what will happen when we start letting everybody (vaccinated and tested albeit) in?

We can only hope that being both vaccinated and boosted will help prevent most Malaysians from being severely ill even if they get infected.

Apart from holidaymakers, one group of tourists who are likely to come to Malaysia in large numbers are medical tourists.

Malaysia is a centre for medical tourism as we have some of the best private medical healthcare in the region.

President of The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh told Malay Mail that in 2019 the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council reported RM1 billion earnings.

“We will definitely see a surge in medical tourists and I believe most will start making appointments and travel arrangements as soon as possible as we have a sizable clientele in particular with private hospitals in Klang, Penang and Melaka,” he said.

“How soon? We’re not sure but I see a surge from Indonesia as many have been relying solely on medication treatment and will need to come in for their review.  

“We are very cost effective compared to other countries, that’s why we get a lot of people coming to Malaysia,” he added.

Malaysia is set to ink a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indonesia tomorrow to mark the return of domestic helpers but the price increase for hiring foreign workers has been a cause for concern, highlighted in Parliament many times by Opposition MPs.

The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia has been upbeat on business flourishing once the country moves into the endemic stage.

But its president Datuk Low Kian Chuan notes that for Malaysia’s economy to thrive again, it needs the government to expedite approvals for the intake of foreign workers.

“I hope the government can approve the applications fast. If we open on April 1, please let the workers come in and work straight away,” Low told Malay Mail.