KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (pic) dismissed claims by certain quarters that thousands of Chinese tourists are stranded in Kota Kinabalu following the novel Coronavirus outbreak back home.
“There are still many flights available. There are those who say ‘no, we are stranded’ and ‘thousands of them are stranded in KK’ (but) that is not true.
“They can always take a flight because I’m sure before they came here they had a return ticket. So that means it can be arranged,” he told a press conference at the Le Tour de Langkawi 2020 event, Thursday.
“They need not worry. There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to many parts of China.
“I have informed the (State) Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew they (tourists) can consult the airline management, tour operators and they won’t be given additional charges for any cancellations.
“(This is) because they are people in difficult circumstances, and we have asked the airlines and tour operators not to burden them,” he said.
Shafie added that the Government’s focus is on preventing the Coronavirus itself, not human beings.
“We are not trying to block out people. What we are preventing from entering our country and State is the disease. It is the carriers of it that we want to bar.
“Whichever nationals have not contracted the Coronavirus, for example those from Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and our neighbours, we do welcome them,” he said.
Shafie said that certain operating procedures in navigating through the Coronavirus outbreak have been established, especially in the process of repatriating Malaysians in China who wish to return to their homeland.
“If we find any of them ill with symptoms, we will quarantine them, and this is one of the steps. (The measures in preventing Coronavirus) are not limited to suspending flights. There are (other) ways.
“I am aware that this (inbound and outbound flights) is under the power of the Malaysian Civil Aviation Authority, where (certain) flights can be allowed.
“The State Government does not have the power to block any airline from flying into the State of Sabah,” he said, clarifying that the State Government does have authority over entering visitors through the State immigration department.
“These are the operating procedures that we have spelled out. On a policy basis we will suspend (flights), yet it is different from the aspect of existing operational procedures,” he said.
He added that the responsible and relevant authorities such as the immigration department, have been informed of such operational procedures, following a State Cabinet meeting regarding the matter.
Meanwhile, Shafie said in the event a positive Coronavirus case does arise in the State, they will be quarantined at the Royal Malaysian Navy Base’s health facilities.
“I am sure Queen Elizabeth Hospital will not be able to cope. The Navy has 12 beds, so we want to request in the event that (a positive coronavirus case) does happen, we can confine them there and do what is required to treat them there,” he said.
Daily Express, 7 February 2020