Massive gatherings still allowed amid virus outbreak

by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA

THERE are currently no restrictions for large-scale gatherings or conferences in the country including those involving international participants despite concerns over the novel coronavirus.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said it was among the matters agreed during a meeting held yesterday between the Health Ministry (MoH) and related agencies, chaired by MoH DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“As for now, there are no restrictions to hold any large-scale meetings or conferences including those involving international participants as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not issued any travel restrictions,” she said after visiting MoH’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) in Putrajaya yesterday.

She said there would be a statement to restrict public gatherings if WHO issued the directive ahead of the Thaipusam celebration on Feb 8.

Dr Wan Azizah also said there would be no restrictions on school activities.

Following Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on evacuating 78 Malaysians from Wuhan and Hubei province, Dr Wan Azizah said they would be quarantined here and handled according to the standard operating procedure.

“Yes, they have to be quarantined because they were exposed (to the virus). The reason for doing so is to save them as they were in an environment that we think is dangerous and we also have to protect others in the country,” she added.

As of 2pm yesterday, seven were confirmed positive of the virus infection in the country, all involving Chinese nationals.

Currently, lab results for patients under investigation of the virus have confirmed that 74 are negative, while eight are still waiting for results.

Among other matters agreed in the meeting were to strengthen vetting procedures for the entrance of travellers from China; direct travellers who showed symptoms of the virus to MoH; inform the public on the virus; and ensure employers are aware of their employees’ health and safety.

She added that the government is not planning to extend flights between Malaysia and other destinations in China.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of tourists coming in from China, so we would not expand the suspension to other locations,” she said.

AirAsia Group Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd have suspended international flights to Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, China.

The suspension of all AirAsia flights from Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok and Phuket to Wuhan will be until the end of February.