No cabinet decision yet on restriction of flights from China – Anthony Loke


No decision has been made so far to restrict flights from China to Malaysia despite the World Health Organization (WHO) having announced a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said any decision on the matter should be made jointly by the Cabinet, including by taking into account the Health Ministry’s directive.

“So far we have not blocked any flights from China. What is being implemented in Sabah is that Chinese nationals flying from China are not allowed to enter Sabah. It’s a decision by the Sabah cabinet,” he told reporters after visiting and exhibition on the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project alignment here today.

Asked whether measures to restrict flights from China would be considered by the government, Loke said the government would have to look into the various implications first.

“There are many implication, we cannot simply block flights from China because we have Malaysian citizens in China and there are also many Chinese nationals in Malaysia. If we block restrict the flight, many people will be stranded.

“As of now, the Health Ministry has taken precautionary measures to check on the health of passengers arriving from China, but we will also monitor closely to see the daily development,” he said.

The declaration by WHO on the public health emergency was made after an Emergency Committee Meeting held in Geneva early today on the potential of the virus spreading to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew yesterday announced that the state government decided to suspend all scheduled and chartered flights from China to Sabah with immediate effect to safeguard the health and welfare of the people in the state.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) chief executive officer Datuk Seri Darwis Abdul Razak said 13 ECRL workers of Chinese nationality who went back to Wuhan, in the republic, for the Chinese New Year celebration had been advised to postpone their return to Malaysia.

“This is a precautionary measure following the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, China. We asked them to postpone their return and gave them special leave until the situation improves,” he added.