JOHOR BARU: The health authorities have ordered the quarantine of 125 lorry drivers who visited a wholesale market infected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus in Singapore.
Johor state executive councillor Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique said the health department here was tracking down the drivers, who visited the Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market that was shut down on Saturday after a worker was diagnosed with SARS.
“Once we find them, we will quarantine them and their families for 10 days,” she told reporters after the weekly state executive council meeting yesterday.
Johor has screened some 1.2 million tourists so far for the SARS virus and sent 45 for further hospital tests but all have been discharged, she said.
SARS screening in the state is conducted at eight entry points: the Causeway, the Second Link, Tanjung Puteri, Sebana Cove, Tanjung Belungkur, Tanjung Pengelih, Muar and Kukup.
The quarantine order came as the Health Ministry announced in Kuala Lumpur five new suspected SARS cases, including two recent visitors to Singapore.
The order also came in the wake of the republic announcing that 14 more people linked to the wholesale market are now either SARS patients or are suspected of having the virus, the youngest being just 18 months old. There are now eight severe SARS cases linked to the market.
China, the hardest-hit country, also announced 147 new cases and nine deaths, bringing its nationwide SARS toll to 106 dead and 2,305 infected.
Halimah, who chairs the state family development, women affairs and health committee, said the health authorities had asked the lorry drivers concerned and their families to stay at home.
“We know this may be a little uncomfortable but it is for their own good,” she said, adding that health officials would be monitoring them daily.
Asked where the drivers were staying, Halimah said most were residing in Johor, Malacca and Cameron Highlands.
“Their names were provided by 76 companies which they are working for. There could be some that have been missed out,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fama said it would meet the Vegetable and Fruit Distributors Association today to discuss the impact on their business following the closure of the Singapore market.
“The association estimates losses of over RM5mil if the wholesale market is closed for 10 days,” Bernama quoted Johor agriculture and rural development committee chairman Othman Jais as saying.
In Kuala Lumpur, ZANI SALLEH reports Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar as saying that the Asean Summit on SARS, to be held in Bangkok later this month, would discuss how member countries can beef up multilateral co-operation to contain the virus.
“It is the first such incident we are facing in the aspect of disease infection. We need to have closer rapport and work multi-laterally to curb it at this early stage,” he said.