Malaysia looks to reboot economy with travel ‘green zones’

Passengers wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus wait before their flight to Jakarta from Kuala Lumpur international airport on August 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 24 August 2020

Malaysia looks to reboot economy with travel ‘green zones’

  • Country’s tourism sector severely impacted by coronavirus pandemic

KUALA LUMPUR: With the coronavirus pandemic dealing a severe blow to Malaysia’s tourism sector and domestic travelers unable to revive the industry, the country’s tourism ministry has welcomed the government’s decision to launch travel “green zones” for foreigners. 

“We’ve always been consistent in our approach of asking the government to review international borders,” Tan Kok Liang, president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), told Arab News, adding that the green zones are “most welcome.”

Domestic travel, despite several efforts taken by MATTA, is not enough to “regenerate sustainable revenues streams” for the nation, he said.

Green zones are routes that have been identified as safe for travel, but with strict testing and monitoring during a visit.

Some countries require a travel itinerary for visitors as well as mandatory testing before departure and also upon arrival. Visitors need not undergo 14-day quarantines. 

The proposal to launch the green zones with Australia, Brunei, China, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam was mooted by Malaysia’s Tourism Ministry in July, with its implementation subject to bilateral agreements based on health, immigration, data tracking and monitoring by each country. 

To limit economic losses due to the pandemic, Malaysia has allowed interstate travel since May, with strict measures in place, including social distancing and mandatory use of face masks.

Dr. Lim Chee Han, a senior researcher at the Third World Network, an international research and advocacy organization, said 69 percent of foreign arrivals to Malaysia last year were reportedly from fellow member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Many service sectors, especially the tourism sector, are desperate to have a revival of some kind of economic activities,” he told Arab News.

In terms of precautionary measures, he said he foresees the use of rapid test kits for all visitors, who will undergo mandatory health screenings upon arrival. Currently, all foreign arrivals must undergo a 14-day self quarantine after testing at airports. 

Malaysia, a popular Southeast Asian travel destination, welcomed 13.35 million international tourists in the first half of 2019, contributing 41.69 billion ringgits ($9.97 billion) in revenue.

On July 18, Arab News reported that Malaysia saw an estimated 50,000 tourists from the Middle East in the first quarter of 2020.

This coincided with the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, which sought to generate $24.26 billion in tourism revenue with a target of 30 million inbound travelers.


Philadelphia curfew as anger boils over police killing of Black man

Updated 29 October 2020

Philadelphia curfew as anger boils over police killing of Black man

  • Thousands of people have taken to Philadelphia’s streets, with looting and violence breaking out, since police on Monday shot dead 27-year-old Walter Wallace
  • The US has seen a wave of protests and rioting since the police killing of George Floyd in May in Minnesota, when an officer was filmed pressing his knee to handcuffed Floyd’s neck

PHILADELPHIA: Officials in the US city of Philadelphia announced a nighttime curfew Wednesday following two nights of unrest over the latest police killing of a Black man whose family said suffered from mental health issues.
Thousands of people have taken to Philadelphia’s streets, with looting and violence breaking out, since police on Monday shot dead 27-year-old Walter Wallace, who was carrying a knife.
Wallace’s death and the subsequent demonstrations, in which riot police have used batons and shields to push back protesters throwing bricks and other debris, have reignited a political clash between Republicans and Democrats days before the election.
Philadelphia is the biggest city in the state of Pennsylvania, which is viewed as key to winning Tuesday’s presidential vote.
“It’s a terrible thing. What I am witnessing is terrible and frankly that the mayor or whoever it is that’s allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing,” President Donald Trump told reporters.
The US has seen a wave of protests and rioting since the police killing of George Floyd in May in Minnesota, when an officer was filmed pressing his knee to handcuffed Floyd’s neck until he went limp.
Many of the protests have accused the police of racism and brutality, but Trump has focused on the unrest to bolster his claims to be the “law-and-order” candidate in his election battle against Joe Biden.
The Democratic challenger said it was “totally legitimate, totally reasonable” to protest peacefully.
“What I say is there’s no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence,” Biden told reporters after casting his ballot in his home state of Delaware.
Officials announced that the citywide curfew will last from 9:00 p.m. to 06:00 am (0100 to 1000 GMT Thursday).
Mayor Jim Kenney suggested other curfews may follow, telling reporters that decisions will be made daily on whether to implement one that night.
“I believe that as a certain percentage of people who abide by the curfew we’ll have less people on the street to deal with, which makes the job, and the safety of the officers better,” said Kenney, a Democrat.
More than 170 people have been arrested over the unrest, mostly for looting, according to police statistics.
Some 53 police officers have been injured, including one whose leg was broken when he was hit by a truck, while 17 police vehicles have been damaged.
Two officers shot Wallace around 4:00 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Monday afternoon after he refused to drop the knife as his mother tried to restrain him.
Phone video of the killing posted on social media showed Wallace push his mother away and then walk toward the police.
“Put the knife down,” one of the officers shouted in the video, which panned away as officers opened fire.
His family said he suffered from mental health problems and was on medication. Wallace’s father asked why officers did not taser him instead.
Police said they responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.
A lawyer for the family said Wallace was bipolar and the call to the emergency services was for an ambulance, not police.
Several hundred National Guard troops deployed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s office are expected to arrive in Philadelphia beginning Friday.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw has launched an investigation into the shooting. The officers involved have not been identified.