Health Ministry: Common quarantine centre for foreign students will help


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 31 May 2003

BY SUSAN TAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will consider setting up a special quarantine centre for foreign students, as proposed by private higher learning institutions in the country. 

The Health Ministry’s Disease Control Division deputy director Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman said a common centre would help the quarantine order to be carried out in a uniform manner. 

“At present, they are providing lodging either at hostels or renting houses or bungalows. These institutions are also picking up foreign students arriving from affected countries at the airport to quarantine them immediately at the designated accommodation,” he said. 

Health Deputy Director-General Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said the institutions had expressed the hope that the Government could provide a common centre to quarantine the students and they would bear all expenses. 

The institutions had made the request after a briefing with health officials here on Wednesday. 

Dr Ismail said he would raise the matter at the next meeting of the National Committee on SARS. The schedule of the meeting would be decided by Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng. 

“So far, they are carrying out the quarantine on their own but they may face the difficulty of finding accommodation to house these students,” Dr Ismail told reporters at the ministry’s daily SARS briefing yesterday. 

He said the institutions were pleased with the briefings and satisfied with guidelines provided by the authorities. 

On whether government doctors would conduct medical checks on incoming students, Dr Ismail said the ministry would encourage the institutions to use their own panel doctors instead. 

Asked if Malaysia would take up Singapore’s invitation to station Malaysian officials at the republic’s checkpoints, he said they would discuss the issue at the next joint border meeting on June 6. 

“I do not want to make any premature comments,” he said. 

The republic’s Home Affairs permanent secretary Tan Guong Ching made the proposal in a letter to the Health Ministry's secretary-general Datuk Alias Ali on Saturday, saying the measure was to overcome Malaysia’s doubts over Singapore’s sincerity.  

Tan, who is chairman of the republic’s executive group on SARS, told Alias that if Malaysia had difficulties with accepting its officials at Malaysian checkpoints, Singapore “would understand but would still welcome Malaysian officials to be stationed at Singapore’s checkpoints” to observe the screening. 

Asked if it was a good idea for Malaysians to be stationed in Singapore, Dr Ismail said they would have to study the logistics first. 

As of Thursday evening, there was only one non-SARS notification, Dr Ismail said: “This is a good sign, we are now in our sixth day with no reports of suspect or probable SARS cases.” 

He had said recently that if Malaysia went 10 straight days without any reported SARS cases, the country could safely claim the outbreak was under control. 

Dr Ismail said the number of people in isolation wards stood at five with one each in Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Kelantan, and two in Selangor. 

He said the 233 quarantined in Lumut had cleared their order and were fine, adding that only 66 Malaysia Airlines crew members were currently under quarantine.  

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