Panel formed to bring M’sians home

PUTRAJAYA: A special committee on humanitarian assistance to bring home Malaysians from Hubei province, China, has been activated in the wake of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection.

In announcing this yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the committee comprised the National Disaster Management Agency, the Foreign Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Malaysian Armed Forces, the National Security Council, and local carriers AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

“The committee aims to organise the safe return of Malaysians and their family members from Wuhan in Hubei, China.

“Wisma Putra is in the process of ascertaining the number of Malaysians residing there to be flown home, ” he told a news conference on the latest development on coronavirus here.

Dzulkefly said Wisma Putra has also continued discussions with its counterpart in China on matters related to the mission.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said it supported the Federal Government’s decision.

Its president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said that the move was “the right thing” to do.

“It is the right thing for a government to do for its citizens.

“Other countries are also making similar arrangements for their citizens to return, ” said Dr Ganabaskaran, adding that as Wuhan was under lockdown, it can be a traumatising experience for those stranded there.

Bernama reported that the Malaysian Embassy in China is identifying the actual number of Malaysians living in the city of Wuhan and its surrounding areas in efforts to bring them home

Malaysian Ambassador to China Raja Datuk Nushirwan Zainal Abidin said this was to ensure that everyone is accounted for and would be brought home.

“We are still trying to get the names and the number of Malaysians in Wuhan and the surrounding cities who want to return home. But it is up to them should they choose to stay.

“So far we have located 96 Malaysians and 20 non-citizen spouses. Of the total, eight are students while the rest are in China to visit their families, ” he said when contacted by Bernama yesterday.

Raja Nushirwan said Malaysians who have not contacted the embassy are urged to do so as this would allow the evacuation procedures to run smoothly.

Asked if there is sufficient food for the Malaysians there, Raja Nushirwan said the embassy is also trying to send food supplies to homes of the Malaysian citizens.

“From what we have gathered there were concerns over inadequate food supply but the people there are still getting their stocks as the Chinese government has delivered food supplies to Wuhan.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia was prepared to evacuate and bring back Malaysians in Wuhan, as soon as permission is secured from China.

Dr Mahathir said for this purpose, the Malaysian government through the Foreign Ministry would soon initiate talks with the Chinese government.

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