Putrajaya to bring back 78 Malaysians trapped in Wuhan

Those showing symptoms of coronavirus will be quarantined for 14 days before being allowed to return home


MALAYSIA is bringing back its citizens trapped in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus which has killed more than 130 people in China and caused widespread panic across the globe.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) said the government is engaging with authorities in China to work an exit passage for 78 Malaysians who are trapped in the Chinese city which is currently under lockdown.

Japan and the US have deployed chartered jets to evacuate their citizens. Tokyo was expected to receive its first batch of citizens yesterday morning.

“We are still working it out with the Chinese government to bring back our citizens who are not ill. “Upon their return, they will be examined. If they display signs of infection, they will be quarantined before they are allowed to go back to their respective households. The quarantine period will be for 14 days,” Dr Mahathir told reporters in Putrajaya yesterday.

The flu-like virus has left more than 130 dead and infected over 6,000 people in the world’s most populous nation, surpassing that of the SARS crisis in 2003.

Coronavirus has spread to at least 16 countries including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.

Malaysia on Tuesday confirmed three new cases, bringing the total tally to seven. The government has imposed a temporary ban on visitors from the affected areas in China. Authorities have also increased screenings at airports. Those suspected with coronavirus will be placed in one of 26 referral hospitals nationwide.

Malaysia is also extending assistance to China in the form of medical and food supplies. The overcrowded conditions in hospitals across Wuhan and Hubei province have resulted in severe shortages of medical resources, according to several news reports.

“Apparently, the food supply in Wuhan is diminishing. Some are saying there is enough food for just four days. We are keen to assist by providing food, masks and gloves. We will not be short of gloves,” Dr Mahathir said.

Malaysia is home to four top rubber glove producers including the world’s biggest, Top Glove Corp Bhd. The company’s executive chairman Tan Sri Dr Lim Wee Chai is already seeing a 25% surge in glove sales for its financial year 2020 due to coronavirus, Bloomberg reported.

Top Glove has the capacity to produce 70.5 billion gloves annually. Other glove makers are also ramping up their production to meet the expected higher demand. It is said the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 spurred a 17% increase in medical glove consumption.

Dr Mahathir also issued a stern warning to fearmongers who misinform the public and incite racial hatred.

“The government will take action against those who purposely publish fake news to frighten Malaysians and inflame racial hatred,” he said.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission on Tuesday detained a 34-year-old man in Bangi, Selangor, for allegedly spreading fake news. He is being investigated for a posting that was uploaded on a Facebook page on Jan 26.

The case is being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which provides a maximum fine of RM50,000, or imprisonment for up to a year, or both, and shall be liable to a further fine of RM1,000 every day during which the offence is continued after conviction.