Appeal for free COVID-19 test for Limbang folk

Azlan Othman

Sarawak Bukit Kota Assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Ismail is urging the federal government to provide free COVID-19 tests for Limbang folk who need to transit in Brunei Darussalam en route to Miri for health and education reasons.

The Sarawak Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Rural Development Assistant Minister said the move will reduce the burden of the people especially the lower income group, and suggested it be complemented by a reduction in airfare for those travelling out
of Limbang.

“I fully support the call to reduce the burden especially on the low income group. We have been asking MASwings to reduce the fare even before this pandemic.

“I support the appeal by Dangsanak Limbang Miri Welfare Organisation for a reduction in airfare for the Limbang-Miri sector, and I feel that the fare for the Kuching-Limbang sector should also be reduced,” he told the Malaysian media.

According to the assistant minister, the current charge for a COVID-19 test is MYR150, while a one-way ticket from Limbang to Miri is MYR160, and MYR260 from Limbang to Kuching.

The COVID-19 screening test is a requirement by the Brunei government in allowing foreigners to pass through the Sultanate on transit, and travellers have to pay BND3 (MYR9.30) for entry and exit service charge starting this month.

The fees apply to both Brunei nationals and foreigners while frequent commuters can apply for Frequent Commuters Pass (FCP) with different rates for individuals and students.

Dangsanak Limbang Miri Welfare Organisation Chairman Sabtu Matali in a statement recently proposed lowering the airfare as a short-term measure to reduce the burden of transportation costs borne by Limbang folk following the strict cross-border procedures introduced by Brunei Darussalam.

He also suggested that MASwings, being the only airline operating this route, increase the frequency of Limbang-Miri flights.

Meanwhile, Dangsanak Secretary Arman Mulok said those commuting from Miri to Limbang by land are not tourists but are compelled to travel due to official matters or business, or to attend to family matters such as weddings, as well as visiting the sick or deceased relatives.

However, he said the organisation respects the Brunei government’s decision to tighten its borders as part of its efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, along with the Sultanate’s sovereign right to impose border-crossing fees.

He added that the organisation is looking forward to the Sarawak government expediting the construction of the Sarawak Link Road, which would bypass Brunei, as a long-term solution to the current difficulties faced by Limbang folk.