LABUAN, Dec 24 — Unlike previous years, Labuan’s two ferry terminals have been receiving lesser holidaymakers heading to mainland Sabah for Christmas and the year-end school holidays since early this week, due to the unbearable COVID-19 test cost.
The five ferries, namely, Putrajaya 1, Kimanis 1, Joy Star, Goodwill and Galaxy have been operating at half capacity despite the island having been placed under the relaxed Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO).
The Labuan International Ferry Terminal and Labuan Ro-Ro Ferry Terminal had always seen a mass exodus each festive season as thousands holidaymakers turned up at the terminals to return to mainland Sabah and Sarawak.
However, such s hectic situation has changed tremendously this time as many choose to stay put in Labuan for the Christmas celebration.
The main ferry operator, Labuan Mainland Link Sdn Bhd chairman, Datuk Chin Hon Vui said the lesser number of holidaymakers returning to Sabah was chiefly due to the high cost of the COVID-19 test at nearly RM500 per person, based on the feedback received.
“For example, if a family with three children chooses to undergo the test at a private clinic, they will have to fork out more than RM2,000 (for double tests). The government clinics are charging only RM61 per person but the capacity is limited,” he told Bernama.
Family Care Clinic Labuan has confirmed that the charge for the COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Kit (RTK-Ag) is RM280 for adults and RM140 for children aged 0-12 years.
Chin disclosed that the ferries operating under Labuan Mainland Link were struggling to cover the operating costs “as lesser passengers/vehicles mean lesser revenue”.
“We must allow all these ferries to continue operating as they also transport goods and vegetables to the island on a regular basis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Labuan Health Department director, Dr Ismuni Bohari has expressed fear over the possible surge in COVID-19 cases due to holidaymakers making their way to mainland Sabah.
“If the returnees continue to ignore the standard operating procedure and fail to adapt to the new normal, Labuan will have a new cluster and see a surge in the number of cases, possibly similar to the situation we faced after the Sabah state election,” he cautioned.