Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 1st of March, 2021

Questions for DG Dr Noor Hisham and the National Security Council (NSC) – Has the economic impact been considered if the interstate travel ban remains in place until 70% of the population has been vaccinated?

I refer to the media report in the Star on the 26th of February, 2021, where the Director General (DG) of Health, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham, stated that the opening of borders and the ending of the interstate travel ban will only be considered after 70% of the population had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Once 70% of the population have been vaccinated, we may then consider reopening borders, ” said Dr Noor Hisham during a virtual engagement session with the media on Friday (Feb 26, 2021).

Dr Noor Hisham’s opinion has raised a few important questions which must be answered quickly and honestly by the government.

Firstly, has DG Dr Noor Hisham’s opinion been shared with the National Security Council (NSC)? Has this been formalized as part of the decision by the NSC when the announcement on whether MCO 2.0 will end after the 4th of March, 2021 will be made later this week?

Secondly, has the impact to the country’s economy – especially the tourism, services and transportation sectors – been considered when DG Dr Noor Hisham’s views were shared to the members of the media? Given that it may take until December 2021 (at the earliest) to vaccinate 70% of the population, what will be the impact on accommodations such as hotels, hostels and homestays if the interstate travel ban were to be extended until the end of the year?

To me, if the interstate travel were to be extended, these sectors will be very negatively impacted. Hundreds of hotels will be forced to close down for the year and perhaps for the foreseeable future. The F&B sector and the services sector which depend on tourism and other activities related to interstate travel will also be similarly impacted.
My heart goes out to the pakcik and makcik who are selling fruits at the R&R stops along the PLUS highway which will continue to suffer from a drop in their income during the MCO 2.0 if the interstate travel ban is extended. My heart also goes out to the families which depends on incomes from homestays in places like Bangi, Selangor and Kuantan Pahang if this interstate travel ban continues. I am similarly sympathetic towards the young people who are working at the petrol stations who may have to lose their jobs because there are not enough drivers who fill their gas tanks and buy supplies from the petrol stations. I also feel sad for the fishermen whose seafood catches are left unsold because their customers don’t want to leave their houses or don’t want to travel across state lines.

The original aid that was given to Mak Kiah has already been used. The I-SINAR money which has been taken out from the EPF accounts will be used up by the end of the year. What will happen to these groups of people?

I hope that DG Dr Noor Hisham can give due consideration to those who have and are experiencing great economic hardship and distress resulting from MCO 2.0. I hope that the interstate travel restrictions which have been proposed by DG Dr Noor Hisham will also take into consideration the lives that may be lost as a result of the negative economic impact which will also have an impact on the well-being of the rakyat.