PUTRAJAYA: Every traveller entering Malaysia will be treated equally and the authorities will not discriminate against people arriving from "a certain country".
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said this was part of Malaysia's preventive measures to keep Covid-19 in check, which is a top priority.
"Preventive measures will be enhanced at entry points. Every inbound traveller will be monitored, particularly those coming from countries with high infection rates, including China and the United States. We are not loosening conditions.
"Today, cabinet members agreed that the health and safety of the rakyat will always come before economic growth and tourism. We are firm and will not compromise on that," he told a press conference after the cabinet meeting today.
Anwar said data from the Home Ministry showed that 336,000 Chinese (nationals) entered Malaysia in 2022, a majority of whom were tourists.
"In December alone, some 53,000 Chinese (nationals) arrived in Malaysia, and that had not caused a spike in Covid-19 cases.
"But this doesn't mean that we should relax the rules for travellers, including those coming from China. We need to monitor and take action for our own benefit."
On Dec 30, Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa announced that all visitors entering the country would be subjected to temperature checks, with symptomatic visitors referred to health authorities for further action.
She said the ministry would also conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on sewage samples from aircraft arriving from China and increase surveillance at international entry points.
She also said RTK-antigen tests would be mandatory only for some patients, such as Covid-19-positive patients with influenza-like illnesses or severe acute respiratory infections.
Dr Zaliha said this also applied to those with a travel history to China within 14 days or had close contact with a person with a travel history to China within 14 days.
The measures, however, sparked concern among the public and experts, with some expressing worry over the possible collapse of the nation's healthcare system after reports emerged of a new wave of Covid-19 infections across China.
Anwar, apart from encouraging Malaysians to take Covid-19 boosters, gave the assurance that the country had sufficient supply of vaccines.
"We have enough vaccines, yes, we have disposed of some because the public reception of boosters is not as great as it is for the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccines.
"Only 49 per cent of the population have taken the first booster shot, and the Health Ministry has about six million doses of vaccines.
"So I encourage those who have yet to receive their first booster shot to do so as the Health Ministry's projection shows that Covid-19 has yet to subside," he said.