KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians who stayed at Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong during the atypical pneumonia outbreak are advised to report to local health authorities as a precautionary measure.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the ministry’s operations centre had moved immediately to trace the whereabouts and travel history of the individuals who were in Hong Kong late last month.
“Of the 55 names in the list provided by the Malaysian consulate in Hong Kong, three were Singaporeans,” he said.
He said the ministry had received the list early this week and issued directives to state health departments to contact the Malaysians involved for a medical examination.
Chua said based on the criteria issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), people would have fallen ill within 10 days of coming in contact with a person who had contracted the severe acute respiratory syndrome.
“Since the critical period has lapsed, we are not particularly alarmed by this information (about the Malaysians in Hong Kong) because if Malaysians were to fall sick, it would have been during that period,” he added.
But he said the authorities would investigate suspected cases and also get in touch with those who were in contact with infected persons.
He was asked to comment on a report, which stated that over 50 Malaysians were among the 2,000 people being traced by health authorities worldwide after it was discovered they had stayed in the hotel in Mongkok, where the outbreak was believed to have originated.
The guests had been in the hotel from Feb 18 to March 3 – a period in which officials believed they were exposed to the killer virus.
Chua also said the ministry had contacted Malaysian ambassadors in affected countries to report the health status of Malaysians in those areas, adding so far only the consul-general in Hong Kong had submitted the required information.
He advised Malaysians to reduce travel to affected cities or countries, which included Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, Taiwan and Toronto and Vancouver.
When contacted, a Malaysia Airlines spokesman said the company was taking all possible precautions to minimise risk for passengers and cabin crew.
“We are carrying masks on our flights, but it is not compulsory for passengers to wear them,” he said, adding that the crew were not required at this time to don masks.
If any passenger showed symptoms of the disease, the crew would immediately notify the health authorities so that appropriate action could be taken, he said.
A spokesman from the SIA headquarters said the airline continued to receive cancellations and fewer bookings to destinations affected by the disease.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents vice-president Ronald Chan said bookings for tours and flights to destinations affected by the disease like Hong Kong and southern China had fallen drastically.
Declining to give numbers, Chan, however, described the situation as “quite bad”.