KOTA KINABALU: Sabah cannot extend tourists visas to more than a week, because it does not have sufficient facilities to cope in the event of a novel coronavirus outbreak in the state, says Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
He said that it was important for Sabah to manage the situation, as it had limited resources in terms of hospitals and specialists to handle any major medical emergency.
“We do not have the capacity in Sabah – we are different from Peninsular Malaysia, which has many hospitals and specialists.
“Here, we only have limited facilities, and we must not only ensure that we can handle it but also manage it, ” he told reporters after attending the Penampang Chinese New Year celebrations at Kepayan here on Wednesday (Feb 5) night.
Shafie was responding to calls for the state government to further extend the seven-day extension visa for Chinese tourists having difficulty flying out of the state, or wanting to stay on until the coronavirus threat eases in China.
“Chinese tourists in Sabah can stay as long as their visas are valid and if they can’t find flights, we can extend (their visas by) another seven days – but not more than that.
“There will be endless requests if we were to extend it for a month, as they might then request for a year.
“It is not easy for us to cater for the people if something happens, ” he said when asked if Sabah would consider extending the Chinese tourists visas by a month as is being done by Indonesia for stranded tourists, mainly in Bali.
“It is not that we do not recognise their request, but they should be mindful that even their government has taken drastic and strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and we have allowed for a week’s extension, ” he said.
Shafie added that there were sufficient flights for the Chinese tourists to return home via Kuala Lumpur and other current commercial flights are still flying from Kota Kinabalu to some cities in China.
He said the coronavirus outbreak that has seen nearly 500 deaths in China was alarming and it was important for the state protect its people by taking firm measures.
“Our state is very vulnerable to these kinds of disease – recently, there were polio cases in the state and we cannot afford anymore, ” he added.
He said Chinese students studying in Sabah would be monitored and the necessary medical assistance would be given to those in need.
Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, Sabah barred the entry of Chinese nationals flying directly from 15 cities into the state on Jan 30, which led to the cancellation of commercial and chartered flights.
However, Chinese nationals arriving via Kuala Lumpur and other destinations were allowed to enter the state.
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