Travel bubbles are currently a viable solution to revive economies around the world disrupted by COVID-19. It’s understandable that this has been a hot topic lately, as the Malays have been cooperating for over a year now.
The concept is essentially a partnership between 2 or more countries that will allow people to travel freely in certain areas without having to undergo a period of quarantine on arrival.
Of course, this is not as reckless as just opening the borders. Countries that employ travel bubbles have either successfully vaccinated a large population, contained the infection, or have strict qualifications for those seeking to cross borders for commercial purposes.
Despite the benefits that travel bubbles could present in reshaping the tourism industry both locally and globally, it still does not make sense to do so in the interest of public health and safety. I’ll explain why below.
Discrimination against those who cannot be vaccinated
Discussions of the travel bubble lead to the blueprint for a vaccine passport, also known as the vaccine bubble. It’s essentially a travel bubble with the added requirement of an effective COVID-19 vaccination, granting free movement to travelers.
A vaccine bubble can also mean a place where everyone present has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. In the case of Hong Kong, places officially designated as vaccine bubbles include restaurants, bars, karaoke lounges, and other public places.
For participating sites, social distancing measures can be relaxed. Businesses will also be entitled to extended opening hours.
In fact, 69% of Malaysians were very supportive of having a vaccination passport to enter shops and offices, while 82% of them want it to be present to enter large public places. .
But this raises the possible problem of discrimination against those who cannot be vaccinated. I am not defending anti-vaxxers who refuse to be vaccinated due to misinformation or personal beliefs, but those who can not be vaccinated because of health problems.
Some of these groups include those who are immunocompromised, have blood problems, or have severe allergies from vaccinations or medications. Having physical ailments is not a choice, nor the fault of the person (in some cases like hereditary diseases or accidents).
Yes, they are also part of the high risk group who are at risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with COVID-19. But if a vaccine passport is needed to enter stores, imagine an unfortunate situation where someone is not allowed in to get basic necessities just because they couldn’t get the vaccine.
If these patients are determined by a healthcare professional that they are not suitable for COVID-19 vaccines, they should at least receive a slip proving their exemption. In turn, this official letter should give them permission to enter places that require a vaccination passport.
Increases the spread of COVID-19 and its variants
A travel bubble may seem safe if all goes according to plan, but COVID-19 poses other problems: silent (asymptomatic) carriers and the mutating virus. Even if an unvaccinated person has tested negative both before and after their overseas flight, they can still be a silent carrier.
Without a quarantine period, they could unknowingly spread the virus to every site they visit, to everyone they meet. This can cause cases to rise again from that country if not treated with care.
And, geographic separation is what usually causes genetically distinct variants. This is the reason why doctors recommend getting the flu shot every year because viruses change often. These mutations can be more severe and transmissible, and may not be prevented by some vaccines.
Hong Kong and Singapore have already delayed their travel bubble at least twice now, with cases across the road rising again. Singaporean authorities have also detected a few variants of local and imported infections, such as the B.1.617 strain which was first identified in India and believed to be more transmissible.
If people start traveling both ways, they could easily be exposed to the disease and its variants, no matter which country they visit.
Malaysians are not disciplined enough
It’s understandable that people want to leave their homes at any time for a variety of reasons: being sick with WFH, lack of social life, boredom, and the list goes on.
That is why we always see fines being imposed, because we have seen people challenging the restrictions. (Now, the fact that our government can’t properly make up its mind about clear SOPs and likes to implement them out of the blue is a whole different argument that we can address another time.)
Businesses were allowed to operate during the second and third AGCs of 2021, but citizens are still encouraged to stay at home, unless they are essentially forced to go out. That being said, digital technology has already given us access to many basic necessities from our couch, from shopping for groceries, delivering items somewhere, and even taking stock. health, to name a few.
I am of the opinion that OLS may be the only way to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our country. It’s also worthless that 80% of infections actually come from sporadic cases in the community, not clusters, according to Dr Noor Hisham, which is a worrying trend.
We were once a nation united against the pandemic and seemed to comply well when AGC was first introduced. But since the restrictions were relaxed and domestic travel was allowed for a short time at the end of last year, we’ve been posting the very basic SOPs our country has set for itself.
If we can’t even stay compliant when we go out and move around the country, who can say that our behavior and attitudes towards it will improve when we travel abroad? For Malaysia to prove that we can be part of any country’s tourism bubble, we first need to prove that we can do it nationally without triggering another spike in cases.
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But travel bubble or not, one thing is for sure: it is extremely important that those of us who are able to get vaccinated do so when the opportunity arises, because it is the only way to get the vaccine. collective immunity.
Work is underway to speed up our country’s vaccination program, and the most recent initiative is for companies to register to purchase Sinovac vaccine for their employees through SELangkah.
We should not hesitate because of the preferences for a specific vaccine, as there is no certainty that you will be able to acquire it as soon as possible. Currently, the best vaccine you can get is the one you can get first, and it’s better to be vaccinated than not to be protected at all costs.
- You can read more articles related to COVID-19 than we have written here.
Featured Image Credit: Malaysia Airports
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