PBS urges Sabah to suspend flights from Wuhan due to coronavirus outbreak

Airport officials checking the temperatures of arriving travellers. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah has asked the Warisan-led state government to seriously consider suspending all daily direct flights from Wuhan to the state in light of the outbreak of the mysterious coronavirus in Wuhan.

Its information chief, Joniston Bangkuai, said the government should exercise greater caution and responsibility in handling the matter.

“There are already four coronavirus-related deaths and 198 confirmed cases reported in Wuhan and this is reason enough for us to be concerned.

“Why are we putting ourselves at risk by allowing these Wuhan flights to continue to come into Kota Kinabalu, a gateway to the rest of the state?” he said in a statement today.

Bangkuai, who is Kiulu assemblyman, said the Warisan government had formed the health and people’s wellbeing ministry after the last election to provide better health and medical care for Sabahans.

“This ministry should take the bull by the horns and strongly advise the state government to suspend these direct flights from high-risk areas where there is a deadly viral outbreak.

“Till today, we are not sure what this ministry does. Does this ministry have a function or was it set up simply for window dressing?” he said.

Bangkuai said it was also disheartening to note that Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew had said her ministry officials would only study whether there is a need for measures to be taken on the Kota Kinabalu-Wuhan flight services following the outbreak in Wuhan.

“Why is she not taking a more decisive and aggressive stand in dealing with this potential time bomb?

“Is the Sabah government so hard up for tourism dollars that it is putting the growth of the sector before the people’s wellbeing?”

Towards this end, he said PBS expected the health authorities, who have installed thermal scanners at the Kota Kinabalu International airport and other airports in the state, to be vigilant in monitoring the health of all visitors, especially those from high-risk areas.

Meanwhile, in relation to the coronavirus, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N Ganabaskaran believed the health ministry had already increased its surveillance at most entry points to the country.

In a statement, he said travellers from the affected areas must undergo health screening, including having their temperature taken and filling out a symptom questionnaire while still onboard the aircraft.

“Travellers with additional symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty in breathing, should have an additional health assessment.

“The health ministry is already carrying out most of these measures at the airport entry points.

“We suggest more manpower be allocated to conduct this surveillance,” he said.