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Travellers to Malaysia unhappy about costly COVID-19 test

THE STRAITS TIMES – Travellers arriving in Malaysia are fuming that they have to pay for an expensive professionally administered antigen rapid test at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) when they had already done a pre-departure polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

They also questioned the need for the on-arrival test when Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines have stopped it or have announced that they will halt doing so soon.

Malaysian Cindy Foo, 35, who returned from Jakarta, said she had to do the antigen rapid test – known as RTK-antigen test in Malaysia – at the airport on April 1.

“We had to wait for the test at KLIA. I don’t understand why we have to be tested again when we had already taken the pre-departure test,” she said on Wednesday.

A traveller from Singapore, Muhamad Hamid, 39, also questioned the need to do the test. “It would be easier for us if they scrap the on-arrival testing just like other countries in the region,” he added.

There are several types of on-arrival COVID-19 test options available at KLIA and low-cost terminal KLIA2, with the professional RTK-antigen (nasal) test costing MYR100 for Malaysians and MYR160 for foreigners.

A health worker carrying out a Covid-19 test at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. PHOTO: THE STAR

It normally costs around MYR60 to MYR70 if the tests are conducted at clinics. It takes between 15 minutes and 30 minutes for the test results to be out.

For the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, Malaysians are charged MTR250, while international travellers pay MYR350, as opposed to its normal price of MYR180 and MYR250 at clinics.

As for the rapid RT-PCR test, it will cost MYR370 for Malaysians, while foreigners pay MYR470. The usual price is below MYR350.

Private Covid-19 screening provider BP Healthcare is the sole company handling Covid-19 RT-PCR screening, which is mandatory for all incoming travellers at KLIA and KLIA2.

Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali told Parliament recently that BP Healthcare was appointed based on an open tender process, while the charges had already been agreed upon.