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Friday, May 20, 2022

Terengganu wedding cluster not due to interstate travel, say tourism players

Tourism players in the state are hoping an isolated case of a Sabahan triggering a new Covid-19 cluster in Terengganu will not be used by the the government to extend an interstate travel ban. The Terengganu Health Department had said the Taman Rakyat cluster stemmed from a man from Sabah who travelled to Terengganu to attend his younger sibling’s wedding, which did not comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Its director, Dr Nor Azimi Yunus, said 26 Covid-19 positive cases were detected from the wedding, comprising 11 family members and 15 guests.

Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KITA) president Alex Yee said that after reading the news report, he felt the infections were due to SOPs not being observed and not because of interstate travel. “So far, all relaxation of travel rules and other activities are done with reminders to observe the strict SOPs. The problem I see now is not the easing of the rules, but non-compliance with SOPs,” he told FMT.

“Instead of a (possible extension of) blanket non-travel policy, I urge the authorities to investigate the cases. If the patients had adhered to strict SOPs, would they have contracted the virus?“Curbing of activities is important but it might not be the answer to stopping the spread of the virus … strict adherence to SOPs has to be the answer.”Sabah Tourist Association president Tonny Chew also said the cluster in Terengganu was due to non-compliance with SOPs rather than interstate travel.However, he feared that this case may inevitably result in the extension of travel restrictions.

“Tourism stakeholders are really hoping for the lifting of travel restrictions in order to have some breathing space to survive through the pandemic.“However, the scenario looks bleak if this new surge continues at an alarming stage. We may have to support the extension of travel extensions if that happens as the health of the public is most improtant,” he said. Following the Taman Rakyat cluster, Nor Azimi said the health authorities had constantly advised people to postpone events that involved a large group of people.

“We should all comply with the prescribed SOPs,” she said in a Facebook posting yesterday. The Taman Rakyat cluster, registered on April 15, is a community cluster involving Dungun district. The index case for the cluster was a 32-year-old man who tested positive for Covid-19 on April 6 when screened before returning to Sabah.

Meanwhile, Sabah Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) chairman Lawrence Chin said the extension of the interstate travel ban will inflict more hardship on tourism players here.

He said Sabah tour and travel agents had been battling zero revenue and liquidity problems since the start of the pandemic.

“The government’s efforts have not had any significant impact on this segment of the industry.

“The only way out of this predicament is through vaccination and the opening of interstate travel, as well as the opening of borders between Sabah and its neighbours like Brunei and Sarawak,” he told FMT.

With Singapore’s low-cost airline Scoot also flying into Sabah in two weeks’ time, Chin hoped the state government will be taking the initiative to open up its travelling restrictions for tourists to reverse the industry’s current downward trend.

Health minister Dr Adham Baba has said the ban on interstate travel, including during the Hari Raya celebrations, needs to be extended owing to the Covid-19 situation.

Adham said the ministry will propose that the lifting of interstate travel restrictions be postponed, adding the government had received requests from various parties to delay the lifting of the restrictions.

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