PUTRAJAYA, Jan 26 — Malaysia has the capacity to deal with the 2019 novel coronavirus situation after having successfully dealt with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola virus and Nipah virus in the past, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Azizah Wan Ismail said today.
“It shows that we have the capacity to take care of ourselves, but we need the cooperation of all Malaysians. Don’t spread fake news, it scares people and gives the impression we are panicking. It is important for us to take care of each other,” she told a media conference after chairing a high-level novel coronavirus coordination meeting here today.
Dr Wan Azizah said the situation in Malaysia was still under control, and there was no need to create panic.
“In China, it has been categorised as an outbreak, but over here in our country, it is known as a cluster. I chaired a special meeting earlier on the virus detected in Wuhan, China, which has spread to 14 countries and with four positive cases in Malaysia.
“The disease is under control, so we do not want a panic situation… it is under control,” she said.
Besides the four positive cases, Dr Wan Azizah, who is National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) chairman, said 23 cases tested negative while four more were awaiting laboratory test results.
She said the Health Ministry was cooperating closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the health ministries of neighbouring countries on current developments.
“The Health Ministry has also presented preparatory measures and responses to prevent the spread of the disease cluster, including detailed screening at all international entry points and close monitoring at all coordinating levels through the activation of operation centres at district, state and federal levels,” she said.
“Also, before boarding flights, Malaysia Airlines representatives will conduct screenings by requesting information from passengers to determine if they are considered a risk to enter the country,” Dr Wan Azizah added.
At the same time, she said Wisma Putra will also closely monitor the 49 Malaysians currently in Wuhan, who mostly comprise undergraduates and expatriates, adding that there was no need for an evacuation for the time being.
“The Malaysian Embassy in Beijing has also issued two travel advisories to all Malaysians in China and has postponed travel to the 13 cities currently put on lockdown,” she said.
In today’s meeting, several proposals were also mooted, including tightening security at all border entry points, the deputy prime minister said.
“This includes for all passengers on flights from China, including Malaysians, to undergo detailed screening,” she said.
Besides this, Dr Wan Azizah urged Malaysians who had visited or returned from holidays in Wuhan specifically who develop symptoms of the disease to quickly report to the nearest hospital for checks.
“Those without symptoms, meanwhile, are advised to closely monitor their condition in the 14-day window after returning from China,” she said.
At the same time, she said it was understood that Chinese authorities had suspended international commercial flights to and from Wuhan, and were not allowing its citizens to go on group holidays overseas from Jan 23 onwards.
As such, the deputy prime minister advised all Malaysians to postpone their travels to Wuhan.
“The public is reminded to constantly practise high standards of personal hygiene such as the washing of hands with soap and water or hand sanitisers; as well as to seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms,” she said, while urging hospital authorities to lodge immediate reports on any infectious cases with the Health Ministry.
Dr Wan Azizah also urged the public to get accurate information on the situation from the Health Ministry and related government agencies, while advising all parties not to create panic by spreading information that was untrue or not verified.
Asked about whether the government would put a stop to issuing tourist visas to Chinese nationals, she said according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the situation in Malaysia had not yet reached a level requiring such action.
Malaysian authorities will also be placing more thermal scanners at entry points into the country, and will also take the temperature of all passengers, Dr Wan Azizah added.
At the same time, she noted that there were also passengers who did not exhibit any symptom of the virus but were nevertheless carriers. In this connection, the authorities will be tracing the contact history of relevant passengers.
On the status of tourists from Wuhan who were still in Malaysia, she said the logistics of the situation had been discussed at the meeting, along with issues concerning potential quarantine as well as how healthy individuals should be attended to, and it was decided that the matter would be discussed further with the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia.
Commenting on alleged reports that the Philippines is not accepting Chinese visitors, the deputy prime minister said she had received information that this ban was only in reference to Chinese nationals from Wuhan, and that Malaysia had taken the same action.