Use immigration powers to stop visitors, Sarawak govt told over virus fears

There have been four confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Malaysia. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: A Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) leader has urged the state government to exercise its immigration autonomy to stop non-Sarawakians who have been to China recently from entering the state amid concerns over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Its youth secretary-general Milton Foo said non-Sarawakians who were in any part of China should not be allowed to enter the state for at least a fortnight.

“There is no direct flight from China to Sarawak but travellers, including those from the peninsula and Sabah who had been to China, should only be allowed to enter Sarawak if they have no symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus after two weeks.

“It is impossible to prevent Sarawakians who had travelled to China from returning home but they must be placed under quarantine and report their health conditions to the health authorities from time to time,” he said in a press conference here today.

SUPP youth secretary-general Milton Foo.

Foo said although there had been a lot of rumours going around on social media about the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in Sarawak, there had yet to be any official confirmation.

“However, as a responsible government, drastic steps should be taken to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus in Sarawak,” he said.

Yesterday, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad had confirmed receiving a report on a Chinese national who worked in Bintulu having symptoms similar to the Wuhan coronavirus infection.

He said the patient is currently receiving treatment at Hospital Bintulu.

“We are waiting for the lab report. The patient is in stable condition,” he said.

Meanwhile, SUPP youth chief Michael Tiang also urged the health authorities to set up a thermal scanner at Sibu airport in view of the first suspected case of Wuhan coronavirus in Bintulu.

“I urge the health authorities to set up a thermal scanner at Sibu airport as soon as possible to ensure Sibu remains free from the Wuhan coronavirus.

“I also urge the federal government to immediately approve the funding for Sarawak to have its own public health laboratory.

Currently, he said, all blood samples collected in Sarawak, including from the suspected case of Wuhan coronavirus in Bintulu, had to be sent to Kuala Lumpur for further tests and this was time-consuming.

“I personally do not understand why there is a public health laboratory being set up in Sabah but not in Sarawak,” he said.

Tiang said it was important for the state to have its own public health laboratory to provide quick results, especially during critical situations such as a virus outbreak.

So far, there have been four confirmed cases of coronavirus infection – all involving Chinese nationals – in Malaysia.