PBS slams tourism minister over ‘healthy tourists’ remarks

Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Mohammadin Ketapi has said that tourists should not be prevented from visiting places of interests because of concerns on the coronavirus outbreak.

KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has slammed Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister Mohammadin Ketapi for saying all tourists entering Malaysia are healthy.

Its information chief Joniston Bangkuai said Mohammadin’s contention showed a lack of awareness on the spread of the coronavirus.

“Nobody expects Mohammadin to be an expert on the virus but it is unacceptable that as a federal minister, he is not abreast of the development of the coronavirus outbreak,” he said in a statement here today.

Mohammadin was yesterday reported as saying that all tourists who entered Malaysia were healthy and should not be prevented from visiting places of interest.

He was reacting to reports on the closure of the Putra Mosque in Putrajaya to non-Muslim visitors due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

“It appears that Mohammadin is not aware of the latest news on the nature of the virus, its mutation, suspected mode of transmission and risk factors,” said Bangkuai, who is also Kiulu assemblyman.

He said while experts were still unsure of the exact mode of transmission, they suspected that the virus could be transmitted even when those infected showed no symptoms.

“This means a healthy-looking person can still be infected and spread the virus to others, Bangkuai said, adding that it was alarming that the rate of transmission was one to three people which was worse than for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

“Hence, we are seeing a huge jump in the number of infections and deaths in just a little over a week,” he said.

Bangkuai said while the majority of cases were in Wuhan, China, the virus had spread to several countries including neighbouring countries Singapore and Thailand.

“Even our closest neighbour, Sarawak, with its strict border controls, has not been spared.

“But, here in Malaysia, we have our tourism minister writing letters to tourism players, asking them to allow what he calls healthy tourists to patronise their businesses.

“It is simply appalling that the minister has not only displayed his lack of knowledge and information on this crisis, but also his inept handling of the situation,” he said.

Bangkuai accused Mohammadin of putting tourists first and Malaysians second.

“He should not conveniently disregard the genuine fear and concerns among Malaysians over the coronavirus outbreak.

“While we understand the government’s determination to make Visit Malaysia 2020 a success, it should not be done at the expense of people’s lives. Is it not better to be cautious than sorry?”