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Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong speaks during the launch of the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre Complex in Sepang December 1, 2021. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong speaks during the launch of the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre Complex in Sepang December 1, 2021. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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GEORGE TOWN, Dec 23 — Despite the resumption of the domestic cruises, the government is taking a cautious approach in allowing the international cruise sector to reopen due to the new wave of Covid-19 brought by the heavily mutated Omicron variant.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said looking at the current situation, it is still too premature to talk about opening up the international cruise sector.

He said other countries have also taken a very careful measure in fighting Covid-19 especially the Omicron variant.

“At this moment, we cannot talk about opening up the international cruises sector due to the spread of the Omicron variant… so we will wait until we have the confirmation from the health authority as we are still guided by the Minister of Health (MoH) regulations,” he told reporters after officiating a ceremony to mark the official resumption of cruise activities at Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT), here, today.

He added that the Ministry of Transport (MoT), MoH and the National Security Council (MKN) were constantly discussing the matter and closely working together to ensure the safety of all Malaysians.

Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng and Genting Cruise Lines Sales Division vice-president Cynthia Lee were also present at the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Wee said after the resumption of the domestic cruises, the SPCT was expected to handle about 660,318 passsengers from 995 cruise ships next year.

He said prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SPCT has been handling over a million passengers annually from 2013 until 2019 but the cruise activities were suspended in April 2020.

“I’m sure the resumption of the domestic cruise activities would bring much-needed relief to the industry and create various economic spill over effects, especially to small medium entrepreneurs, taxi and e-hailing drivers, restaurant owners, trishaw riders and tourism industry players,” he said.

He said based on the survey conducted by the cruise operator, majority of passengers preferred Penang, as its terminal is strategically located at the heart of the city.

“MoT and PPC are also planning to come up with a cruise coordination plan next year with the priority is to make SPCT a home port for cruise activities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lee said Star Cruise has taken various upgraded preventive measures in accordance with the local needs and international standards.

“Every individual on the cruise must be fully vaccinated and passengers are required to undertake an Antigen Rapid Test at the SPCT before boarding to ensure the safety of other passengers and crew onboard,” she said. — Bernama

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