Coronavirus not at stage where tourists have to be barred entry, PM says

Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali together with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng tossing yee sang at a CNY function in Klang today. Mahathir has assured Malaysians that all tourists entering the country are being checked thoroughly and constantly to detect any infection among them.

KLANG: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the spread of the coronavirus disease is still not at such a critical stage that tourists have to be barred entry.

The government, he said, was implementing stringent checks on tourists entering Malaysia and health authorities were placing in quarantine anyone with the slightest symptoms of the disease. That was enough for the moment.

He admitted that the government was unable to predict how serious the situation could become.

“Many countries are facing the same problem. We will have to assess the situation as we go along. But at this moment it is not at a critical stage, it has not reached the point where we will need to stop tourism,” he told reporters after attending a Chinese New Year function in Klang.

But he assured Malaysians that all tourists entering the country were being checked thoroughly and constantly to detect any infection among them.

Asked if Malaysia would quarantine all tourists from China until they showed no symptoms of the virus, he said it was impossible to do that.

“Tourists from China (sometimes) increases to two million.

“Where are we going to keep them? In the cowshed? Don’t tell me we will go to that level,” he added.

Mahathir said the new virus should not be taken lightly as the virus was not really identified yet. “We are also not very sure about the treatment,” he added.

At the moment, he added, the world was looking at prevention by wearing masks and keeping away from people who were suspected of being infected, as no treatment was available.

“We can only focus on prevention at the moment, then maybe a cure at the later stage. People are travelling all over. Before, epidemics were confined to one place. But now it can spread all over. Within three to six hours it can reach halfway around the world,” he said.

Commenting on the Philippines deporting people to China, Mahathir said it would be difficult to identify all tourists from Wuhan in Malaysia.

“They are moving around, but what the Chinese government is doing is isolating the Wuhan people. They quarantine those people. This is drastic action and shows their determination to control this epidemic,” he said.

Mahathir said people were travelling more frequently and faster than before and due to that it was impossible to have “complete control” over the situation.