KOTA KINABALU:: The China Consul-General's Office here wants the state government to take responsibility and formulate an action plan to coordinate flights for the return of thousands of tourists stuck in Sabah following the state's decision to bar the entry of China nationals following the coronavirus outbreak.
In a statement issued late Sunday (Feb 2), the office said that the state’s decision had left many China nationals holidaying during the lunar new year here to be stranded because of flights between China and Sabah had been greatly reduced or grounded.
“After the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holidays, many have to head back to school or go back to work, ” the consul-general's office said.
They were responding to the state government’s statement that the state would work with the office to assist Chinese tourists trying to return to China.
The statement said that the Kota Kinabalu Consul-General's office received hundreds of calls from anxious citizens every day asking how to return to China.
On Jan 30, Sabah's Cabinet decided to bar the entry of China nationals to Sabah, which led to cancellation of many scheduled and chartered flights, leaving holidaying Chinese tourists already in the state stranded.
“In this regard, we hope the Sabah government will assume responsibility and formulate practical plans to coordinate flights and properly arrange the return of Chinese tourists stranded in Sabah due to the disruption in flights, ” the statement read.
It could not be immediately estimated how many China tourists were affected by the reduced or cancelled flights.
A total of 117 direct flights from 15 cities in China to the state have been affected by the temporary ban on Chinese nationals entering Sabah.
The Consul-General's statement came hours after Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said the state would work with the Consul-General's Office to assist Chinese citizens.
“We will work closely with the China consulate in Kota Kinabalu to facilitate the sending back of their nationals, ” she told reporters earlier Sunday.
She said there was no reason for Sabah not to work with China "because we also sympathise with those who are here and are not able to go home."
Liew added that Chinese tourists who are already in Sabah and wish to stay on may get an extension of their visas if they pass all health and safety checks.