KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has temporarily frozen the intake of foreign workers and cut down the number of visas for tour groups from SARS-affected areas as part of measures to curtail the spread of the deadly disease.
The affected places were identified as southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hanoi, Toronto and Singapore.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said that under a newly set up National Committee on SARS, the plan would be implemented with the co-operation of several ministries and agencies to inform members of the public on SARS and monitor the situation in the country (see table).
In the committee are the Education, Information and Transport Ministries, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, Malaysian Medical Association and Private Practitioners Association.
Chua said the Cabinet-endorsed action plan, which had also designated specific state hospitals to tackle suspected cases, was already in place before Malaysia had reported the suspected cases on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry will be obtaining extra funds to facilitate the setting up of isolation wards in hospitals for suspected SARS cases, he told a press conference before the ministrys post-Cabinet meeting yesterday.
Chua said airplanes arriving in Malaysia from the affected countries would be directed to land in designated gates at the KL International Airport and airports in Penang, Pulau Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
This will enable airport and medical authorities to monitor and screen passengers for any visible symptoms of the flu-like illness, he said.
Chua added that screening must also be conducted at the departure area of airports of affected nations.
Passengers would also be required to fill out health declaration cards to assist in the screening process.
Daily briefings on SARS will be given to the media so that the public can have updates and refrain from a sense of panic, Chua said.
He said the SARS situation in Malaysia is good, considering the circumstances around the world.
If there are probable cases, then we will say so, if not, we will not report it just because we are under pressure by the press, he said.
Asked about the alleged SARS death reported in the city, he said it was not caused by or related to the disease.