Media group's SARS gear draw stares at airport

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 06 Apr 2003

SEPANG: The media group trailing Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng and other officials drew stares from passengers at the KL International Airport yesterday. 

Some even looked shocked when they encountered the large group, who were wearing face masks and gloves as a precautionary measure against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) while they accompanied Chua in his inspection of the SARS screening centre. 

Masks and gloves were provided by the airport management although some members of the media brought their own masks – one even had the recommended N95 model. 

There were complaints about the masks being uncomfortable but many of the group wore them on the Aerotrain to the satellite building where the SARS screening centre was located at Gates 21 and 22. Some, however, did give in after some time and removed their masks. 

In contrast, the majority of passengers wandered about the airport without donning any protective masks or gloves.  

While waiting for Singapore Airlines flight SQ104, the press and ministry officials were briefed on the SARS examination room, where passengers would be referred to if they displayed symptoms during a flight. 

The staff at the room had to wear disposable hazard material suits and masks while those who manned the screening counter needed only to wear masks. 

When the 117 passengers on the flight from Singapore finally disembarked, they were required to undergo the mandatory screening. 

Despite coming from a focus country (one where local transmission has occurred), only a handful wore masks. The entire screening process took just 15 minutes. 

At a press conference later, Chua explained the guidelines given to the Transport Ministry on incoming flights. 

Suspected SARS cases which occur during a flight should be isolated at either the two front or back rows of seats, he said. 

“Those in the two front and back rows will be considered contacts. All flight attendants and those looking after the sick passengers will also be considered contacts,” he said.  

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