Wuhan coronavirus: No plans to stop Chinese tourists for now, says Dr M

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaking to the media at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday (Jan 25). Looking on is Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has no plans to block travellers from China for now, says the Prime Minister, although three individuals from Wuhan have tested positive for the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said however that the screening of travellers especially those from China would be intensified.

“We have no plans to block travellers from there at this point in time, as China has already quarantined the entire 11-million population in Wuhan (where the new viral strain was first discovered), ” he told the media at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Town Hall's Chinese New Year open house Saturday (Jan 25).

China has also locked down several other cities in a move to contain the outbreak.

Dr Mahathir said this in response to the Health Ministry's announcement that three individuals from Wuhan tested positive for nCoV on Friday (Jan 24).

The three infected were relatives of a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who recently tested positive for the new viral strain in Singapore.

Asked whether Malaysia would review the free visa policy for tourists from China in view of the outbreak, Dr Mahathir only said China offered three-year multiple entry visas to Malaysians.

He also called on all parties to remain vigilant, as it was a dangerous virus.

“Wear a mask, ” he said.

Containing such an outbreak had become increasingly challenging as access to modern transportation made it possible for people to travel from one destination to another within hours, he said.

“And people at an early stage of infection do not show any symptoms, ” he said.

He said it would also be difficult to contain movement of animals in the wild, as the new virus strain was found to be of zoonotic (animal) origin.

“Containing infectious diseases has become comparatively more difficult, ” he said.

On the Chinese nationals who tested positive here, Dr Mahathir said they would remain under quarantine and observation.

He acknowledged that the outbreak would adversely affect the number of tourist arrivals during Visit Malaysia 2020, as Chinese tourists ranked highest in number.

“But the virus is quite dangerous, ” he said.

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