KOTA KINABALU: There are only about 200 China tourists still in Sabah, said the country’s consul-general in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide.
Liang said the number of China tourists has dropped drastically since the state government banned flights from China to Sabah and imposed entry restrictions in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“There are some China tourists who were already in Sabah prior to the suspension of flights.
“But the government has taken various measures including extending some of visas and making sure some airlines operate so that the tourists can return to China.
“As a result, the number of tourists has reduced from a few thousand to between 100 and 200 tourists now,” he told reporters after accepting a donation amounting to 250,000 renminbi (about RM150,000) from the Ma-Zhong Friendship Association at the consulate-general here today.
Liang said there were between 2,000 and 3,000 China nationals who hold work passes in Sabah and another 700 were students, mostly studying at Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
“But many of them have returned to China over the Chinese New Year period,” he said.
Liang said the Sabah government only barred work-pass holders from the provinces of Wubei, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and other areas where the virus outbreak was deemed serious.
“But those from other areas are allowed to return to Sabah.
“I hope as the outbreak subsides, the state government would adjust the policies on flight suspensions and entry restrictions.
“I am very confident many China tourists will return to Sabah,” Liang said.
On the visa extension for China tourists, he said, the state government had yet to inform the consulate if the tourists would be allowed to stay on after the seven-day extension expires.
“According to the requirements of Sabah immigration authorities, the tourists have to leave after seven days (when the visa expires).
“The Sabah government has the authority to decide if those with special circumstances will be allowed to stay on beyond the seven-day visa extension period,” Liang said.
Chief Minister Shafie Apdal had previously said that the visa could not be extended for more than a week as the state was not equipped to handle a coronavirus outbreak in Sabah.
Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew said the seven-day extension was only valid for China tourists who arrived in Sabah before Jan 31, the day when Sabah suspended all scheduled and chartered flights from China.
On Feb 8, the state further imposed entry restrictions on foreigners as well as Malaysians.
Sabah has not recorded any case of coronavirus infection so far.
Meanwhile, Ma-Zhong Friendship Association president Oh Ei Sun said the donation was in response to the call by the Returned Overseas Chinese Federation of China (Qiaolian) for monetary and material assistance.
He said the donation would enable Sabahans from all walks of life to support the people of China, especially residents of Wuhan, in their battle against the coronavirus.