No plans to restrict flights from China.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has called on Malaysians to remain calm in the face of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China.
Wan Azizah, who chaired a high-level emergency meeting in her capacity as the head of the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) today, said various local and international agencies are cooperating to stem the spread of the outbreak in Malaysia.
The coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, has spread to 14 countries and has seen four confirmed cases in Malaysia.
“Everything is under control, don’t panic.
“The Health Ministry is working closely with the World Health Organisation and the health ministries of neighbouring countries in relation to the coronavirus,” she said.
“We have put up more thermal screening machines, especially at the Johor-Singapore border,” she added.
She also said Malaysia had no plans to restrict flights from China.
On the case of two Chinese nationals arrested at the Senai International Airport last night, after refusing a hospital’s order to quarantine their toddler suspected to have been infected with the coronavirus, Wan Azizah said the government had no plans to station police officers at hospitals.
“The hospitals will inform the police if such cases happen again,” she said, adding that hospitals already had security guards.
“Anyone in Malaysia who has returned from China over the last 14 days should get themselves checked, even if they show no symptoms,” Wan Azizah said.
“Malaysia has done well during previous outbreaks such as SARS, the Nipah virus and the Ebola virus.
“It shows we have the capacity to control such outbreaks, but we need the cooperation from everyone.”
Meanwhile, health ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a statement, said two Malaysians and two Chinese nationals are still under quarantine for suspected coronavirus, while waiting for their test results.
“The four are in stable condition and are being monitored in isolation wards at government hospitals,” he added.
He said 23 people were placed under observation for the virus earlier. They included 14 Malaysians, eight Chinese citizens and one Jordanian.
Eighteen of the 23 were discharged after medical reports confirmed they had not contracted the coronavirus. They included 12 Malaysians, five Chinese citizens and one Jordanian.
He said individual suspected cases of coronavirus case will be quarantined for 14 days after exposure to stop the virus from spreading.
Those who do not follow instructions of the authorities are liable to a prison sentence of not more than two years and can also be fined. The ministry has advised Malaysians to postpone their trips to China unless it is for emergency reasons.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the spread of the coronavirus disease in Malaysia is still not at such a critical stage that tourists have to be barred entry.
The government, he said, was implementing stringent checks on tourists entering Malaysia and health authorities were placing in quarantine anyone with the slightest symptoms of the disease. That was enough for the moment.
He admitted that the government was unable to predict how serious the situation could become.
Dr Mahathir was speaking to the media after attending the Chinese New Year (CNY) 2020 open house today which was hosted by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Klang Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCCI).
He said most countries are taking some action because this is something new and serious.
He assured Malaysians that all tourists entering the country were being checked thoroughly and constantly to detect any infection among them.
Asked if Malaysia would quarantine all tourists from China until they showed no symptoms of the virus, he said it was impossible to do that.
“Tourists from China (sometimes) increases to two million.
“Where are we going to keep them? In the cowshed? Don’t tell me we will go to that level,” he added.
Mahathir said the new virus should not be taken lightly as the virus was not really identified yet. “We are also not very sure about the treatment,” he added.
At the moment, he added, the world was looking at prevention by wearing masks and keeping away from people who were suspected of being infected, as no treatment was available.
“We can only focus on prevention at the moment, then maybe a cure at the later stage. People are travelling all over. Before, epidemics were confined to one place. But now it can spread all over. Within three to six hours it can reach halfway around the world,” he said.
Commenting on the Philippines deporting people to China, Mahathir said it would be difficult to identify all tourists from Wuhan in Malaysia.
“They are moving around, but what the Chinese government is doing is isolating the Wuhan people. They quarantine those people. This is drastic action and shows their determination to control this epidemic,” he said.
Mahathir said people were travelling more frequently and faster than before and due to that it was impossible to have “complete control” over the situation.
Meanwhile, a petition to stop Chinese nationals from entering Malaysia has garnered more than 149,000 signatures.
The man who started the petition, Muhammad Zaim Yusran Mohd Zaidy said: “The government should think more about the health of Malaysians. Don’t wait until there is death among Malaysian people. then only the government wants to take some preventive action.”
The new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, has killed 56 people and left almost 2,000 ill.
Jan 23, Wuhan Under Quarantine