The Straits Times/Asia News Network
AirAsia passengers wearing face masks walk to the check-in counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang on April 29, 2020. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)
Madam Nisrin Razi wasted no time in planning a short getaway with her family after the Malaysian government announced that it was allowing domestic flights to resume.
It has been almost three months of being "locked up" for the family due to the movement curbs imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 37-year-old accountant said that she needed a "break" for her sanity, although she still feared contracting the disease.
"Staying at home and having to simultaneously juggle everything, including working from home and teaching my children, have taken a toll on me. So when the government announced that we are entering the recovery phase and that there will be no restrictions to travel domestically, I took my chance and booked a return flight to Langkawi," the mother-of-three told The Straits Times.
"But, of course, I made sure that we took all precautionary measures like booking extra seats on the plane, sanitising our hands, wearing a face mask, not ordering in-flight food and not joining any crowd at the beach. We just needed some time off after staying home for so long," she added.
On June 11, Malaysia announced that all public transport services, including flights and e-hailing services, would be allowed to operate at full capacity but must abide by the standard operating procedures under the recovery movement control order (RMCO). These new procedures include having thermal scanners at the airport, temperature screening for all international arrivals, constant sanitisation and social distancing.
The decision to ease the curbs comes with the country consistently recording a low number of infections in the past weeks.
Malaysia on Friday reported six new COVID-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total of infections to 8,535. The death toll is 121.
And the COVID-19 recovery rate is now at 94.6 percent out of the total number of positive cases.
Following the government's announcement, national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS) increased the frequency of its domestic flights and is set to resume international flights next month .
Several adjustments have been made though, such as restricting in-flight services like reading material, and suspending in-flight shopping for the time being.
"The measures include temperature checks, sanitisation and disinfection of all properties and facilities, enforcement of social distancing, mandatory usage of face masks and installation of protective screen barriers at check-in counters and transfer desks at KL International Airport (KLIA)," MAS said in a statement on June 8.
"All Malaysia Airlines front-liners on ground and onboard are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and their health screened daily. Even upon arrival, passenger luggage will be sanitised," it added.
Airlines in Malaysia, like those elsewhere around the world, have been hit hard by the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
In March, MAS disclosed that over 4,000 bookings were cancelled.
Similar to MAS, AirAsia flight attendants are now required to don PPE on all flights.
The budget carrier has also gone on a strong promotion drive, introducing an unlimited flights plan for 16 destinations in the country priced at RM399 (US$93.5). The offer is valid till March next year.
Since its launch on June 11, over 12,000 bookings were made with the first taking place only seven minutes after the offer went on sale.
Not everyone is jumping on the travel bandwagon, yet.
"I feel like holidays can wait. Even though the restrictions have been lifted and we're allowed to travel, I think we need to be smart in choosing for ourselves," said 31-year-old auditor Nurazirah Hassan. " For as long as there's still a case in Malaysia, I won't risk it. I'm not going out unless it's really necessary and limiting contact seems like the best option for now."
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