KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government will continue to work with the China authorities to facilitate the return of their nationals to the republic.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said the state’s temporary ban on all flights from China – from Jan 30 – was only to stop new arrivals of China tourists to Sabah during the current coronavirus epidemic which started from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.
“Well, if there is a flight from China or any aircraft, they can come to pick up their people. We will not stop that.
“And if there are Malaysians from Sabah in China who want to return home using a flight from China, we will allow that, ” he said after Parti Warisan Sabah’s Putatan division Chinese New Year open house at Tanjung Aru town here yesterday.
He also clarified that the China tourists who are already in Sabah and are healthy could stay on, provided their visas had not expired.
Earlier, in his speech, Mohd Shafie said he had instructed Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew to continue engaging with the Chinese government via the necessary channels.
Liew, who is state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, had during a function in Tawau on Friday night said Sabah Tourism Board was currently liaising with the China consulate-general in Kota Kinabalu as well as Civil Aviation Administration of China to ease the return of its nationals from Sabah, estimated to be in the thousands.
As for the number of China tourists still in Sabah currently, Liew said she would get an update from the Immigration Department tomorrow.
While steps are underway to assist China tourists in Sabah to return to their homeland, it remains unclear how many wished to do so.
A Sabah Tourism Board spokesman said they had yet to get the full picture of those stranded following the temporary ban and they were trying to coordinate with the airlines and others on the matter.
“Usually, a tourist spends about six days from the date of arrival. We hope they are able to rearrange their flights with the respective airlines that they booked their return tickets with, ” the spokesman said, adding that the tour operators and hotels could reach them if the need arises.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports manager for Kota Kinabalu International Airport Sunif Naiman said there were no stranded China nationals at KKIA.
Sunif was responding to claims that some China tourists were left stranded at KKIA upon their arrival on Friday after they were refused entry by the Immigration.
Some claimed that a flight from Shanghai that flew the tourists could not take them back as it was already full.
On Friday, the Chinese government picked up 123 of their nationals on a Xiamen Airlines aircraft to Hubei.
MaZhong Friendship Association president Dr Oh Ei Sun, who was at the airport, said the tourists were thankful for the assistance provided.
A total of 117 direct flights from 15 cities in China to Sabah have been affected by the temporary ban.