KOTA KINABALU, Feb 4 — State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew held a special meeting yesterday to discuss the repatriation of Chinese tourists stranded in Sabah in the wake of the state’s travel ban following the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in China.
The meeting was attended by authorities such as the Sabah Immigration Department, Malaysia Airports Berhad and the relevant airlines — Malaysia Airlines Berhad, AirAsia, Malindo Air, Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern/Shanghai Airlines.
She said the discussion focused mainly on two issues, namely the extension of visas that are expiring and travel arrangements to bring those affected back to cities in China other than Wuhan.
“The State Immigration Department has agreed to assist in visa extension for seven days after the expiry date, and this can be done at the department’s headquarters in Kota Kinabalu. This is applicable only to Chinese tourists who arrived in Sabah before Jan 31, 2020.
“Visas will be extended upon show of valid return tickets. It was also decided that the local guarantor requirement for FIT (Free and Independent Travellers) tourists will be waived. Please take note that the visa extension fee of RM100 is still applicable,” she said in a statement issued here tonight.
On assistance offered by the airlines, Liew, who is also Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said the airlines concerned have agreed to waive cancellation fees for those whose flights were cancelled.
“There are also choices of rebooking flights to China via Kuala Lumpur. We advise stranded passengers to access the respective airlines’ websites for further information on available flights for their return journey,” she added.
According to the minister, AirAsia is still operating flights from Kota Kinabalu to Shenzhen (14 times weekly), Guangzhou (seven times weekly), Hangzhou (five times weekly) and Kunming (twice weekly).
Malaysia Airlines flies to Shanghai twice weekly while China Southern Airlines’ flights to Guangzhou end on Thursday (Feb 6).
Yesterday, Liew also chaired a meeting with tourism groups and health authorities where she was briefed on the 2019-nCoV outbreak by the State Health Department’s principal assistant director (Health Surveillance Unit), Dr Sahrol Nizam Abu Bakar.
Liew has directed Sabah Tourism Board to organise a briefing on the 2019-nCoV for immigration authorities, hoteliers, airlines, tour and travel agents, tour operators and tour guides as soon as possible.
“It is vital for all front-liners of the state’s tourism industry to be enlightened on the current situation, control and preventive measures being undertaken by the health authorities to ward off the viral infection,” she said.