THE Government’s move to curb the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a case of too little too late, according to Utusan Malaysia.
The Malay daily said not enough was being done to contain the spread of SARS, and the Government must embark on bold measures.
In its editorial yesterday, it said early preventive measures must be taken and that the present steps were not totally effective as locals and foreign visitors were still free to enter and leave Malaysia.
Although there were checks and medical screening at the entry points, it said, there was no guarantee that the disease would be contained.
“Furthermore, for the sake of protecting the tourism industry, some of those on duty at the entry points have even allowed in tourists from SARS-affected countries.
“In a serious situation that can threaten the health of the nation, no exceptions should be made,” the editorial said, adding that Malaysia often did not regard an epidemic as serious if there was no heavy loss of lives.
The daily said while the Government’s action in relation to visitors would be seen as impolite and could affect the tourism industry, it must be pro-active in preventing SARS from spreading.
“This is the time for players in the tourism industry to understand the situation and find ways to overcome their loss in income,” it said.
In the daily’s Bisik-Bisk column, Awang Selamat said he had said from the start that entry points should be closed to those from SARS-affected countries and Malaysians too must be prevented from entering those countries.
“But this has not been done. Malaysians are only given advice and left to make their own decisions. Some are still visiting China,” he said, adding that the Government should impose a restriction and not give people a choice.
In an interview with Utusan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim was quoted as saying that the Government could not assist Malaysian student Muhammad Manaal Bajuri if he had been captured by US soldiers on the grounds that he was fighting with the Iraqi forces.
“If he is brought to court or is detained by the US forces, the Government cannot help him as his status as a student has been revoked automatically,” Dr Rais was quoted as saying.
Muhammad Manaal is one of three Malaysian students who had refused to return to Malaysia during the Government’s evacuation of Malaysians from Iraq before the war started. He is reported to have been wounded and captured by the US forces while fighting with the Iraqi side.
Berita Harian interviewed the mother of Mohamad Rozainy Ghazali, one of the other two students, who had urged Malaysian representatives in Iraq to trace her son and the other student, Mohamad Abdullah Osman, through Muhammad Manaal.
According to Siah Endut, 49, Muhammad Manaal was being treated at a hospital in the east of Baghdad although the Government and the Malaysian embassy in Jordan had, up till Wednesday, said they had no news on his whereabouts.
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