Travellers told to declare health status or face the music


  • Nation
  • Monday, 19 May 2003

BY SUSAN TAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Travellers who do not declare their health status on declaration cards upon arrival in Malaysia can be penalised or jailed, Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said. 

According to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, first time offenders could be jailed two years and repeat offenders five years. 

“The Act is clearly stated on the declaration cards given to travellers to fill in their details,” he said, when contacted after the daily SARS briefing in the ministry yesterday. 

Earlier, Health Deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said two 20-year-old students from China did not declare that they had fever, when they arrived in KL International Airport on Friday. 

“But the thermal scanners were quick to pick up their temperatures and following that, they were sent to hospitals,” he said. 

Dr Ismail said it showed that people should be honest when filling in their cards and that the system installed at the checkpoints was efficient to detect SARS symptoms. 

Although the two had not shown any other respiratory symptoms, he said, they have been reprimanded and were being treated at a hospital. The two have given their full co-operation to authorities and further action will not be taken against them. 

On screening measures, Dr Ismail said, pre-boarding screening at the Tanjung Pagar station for train passengers entering Malaysia from Singapore had commenced since Tuesday. Seven ministry officials have been deployed for this purpose. 

As of Saturday evening, he added, five notifications had been received, with only one turning out to be a suspected SARS case – that of a 28-year-old bus driver, who travelled from Ipoh to Singapore regularly. 

“The man was last in the Republic on Wednesday and fell ill the following day, with fever and cough. He is admitted to the Ipoh Hospital and is recovering well,” said Dr Ismail. 

Presently, there are no probable cases warded in hospitals, while 17 people are still in isolation wards.  

The breakdown of those in hospitals are – five in Kuala Lumpur; three in Perak; two each in Sarawak, Penang and Selangor; one each in Pahang, Malacca and Negri Sembilan. To date, the ministry has received 389 notifications. 

Dr Ismail said the 29-year old Bangladesh businessman, who is a suspect case and warded in Klang Hospital, could be suffering from dengue and not SARS. 

“It looks like he is suffering from dengue fever as his platelet count is low – at about 17,000. A normal person will have a platelet count of about 150,000 to 400,000. If a person has fever and low platelet count, we will check for dengue,” he added. 

On the four Penang healthcare workers who fell ill, he said two have been discharged and another today. The last worker still has fever without respiratory problems.  

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