Vital to keep people safe and informed

Assistant pharmacist Sarah Afiqah Yahaya putting up a sign saying face masks are sold out at the pharmacy in Taman Nong Chik in Johor Baru. — Bernama

A few days ago some friends including a manager of a renowned hotel chain in Johor Baru called to ask me some interesting questions about what to do if they suspect someone with symptoms of the dangerous coronavirus.

Where do they refer their guest? Is there a 24-hour hotline for them to call for information? Do they send them directly to a private clinic, hospital or quarantine centre?

The person said she called one of the two major general hospitals in Johor Baru but no one picked up the phone. It is possible they were inundated with calls.

She said her hotel was taking all the necessary precautions, including finding out about what to do as they get foreign guests including those from China.

The coronavirus has killed more than 200 people in China and infected thousands including many across the globe.

So far, Malaysia has announced eight cases comprising Chinese nationals with most or all the cases occurring in Johor.

The patients here were sent to Permai hospital’s isolation wards.

The time has come that more serious attention is paid to beef up checks at all of the state’s more than a dozen entry and exit points to combat this global epidemic, which seems to be worsening by the day.

There seems to be some level of panic among Johoreans with many pharmacies running out of stock for face masks.

Talk is rife that shelves in certain supermarkets are also going empty with people rushing to stock up on can food and other essentials.

The matter is compounded with Singaporeans also scooping up masks and essentials in Johor Baru.

The state government needs to ensure all major customs and quarantine complexes in Johor Baru and Second Link are fitted with more than one thermal scanner or detection device to ensure around the clock detection.

We cannot simply reply on stringent checks on the Singapore side, which has many more scanners than Malaysia, as daily thousands of people commute between both countries.

Luckily, unlike Sabah, Johor only has one daily flight from Guangzhou in China whereby the authorities at the Senai International Airport have installed a scanner to screen passengers.

Most of our visitors enter the state via the Causeway or Second Link.

Ambulances and medical teams should also be on standby at these check-points 24 hours to immediately whisk people directly to the quarantine complex instead of referring patients to private clinics or hospitals first for referrals before taken to the Permai hospital.

A special 24-hour hotline or WhatsApp number should be set up to ensure people are able to call or get information especially with so much fake news being circulated on social media.

Johor has a high concentration of foreigners especially Chinese nationals due to their massive investments in Johor Baru, Iskandar Puteri and Pasir Gudang.

Local hoteliers should also be briefed on what to do and who to call if they come across visitors who are unwell.

Public awareness is key to ensuring no large scale outbreaks occurs in the state.

The state leadership including Johor Mentri Besar Dr Sahruddin Jamal should immediately call for a meeting involving all government agencies especially those involved in disasters to coordinate a proper response to this epidemic.

Besides a federal taskforce, Johor should have its own taskforce to respond to this epidemic, not just to keep the public informed but also investors.

This is an important year for Johor with it being Visit Johor Year and with Malaysia Games (Sukma) around the corner, we cannot be complacent and take things for granted.

Any large scale outbreak in Johor will surely hurt the local economy and it is paramount that everyone be alert especially at our borders.
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coronavirus , Wuhan , pneumonia


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