Wuhan virus: Malaysia beefs up health checks at all international entry points

In a picture taken on Jan 21, Malaysian health officers screen arriving passengers with thermal scanners at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. PHOTO: AFP

JOHOR BARU - Malaysia has beefed up health checks at all its international entry points, with a separate lane for China visitors on the Johor side of the Tuas immigration checkpoint in its bid to stop the spread of the Wuhan virus, a top official said on Tuesday (Jan 28).

The country has placed thermal scanners at these entry points to detect travellers with fever, said Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, director-general of the Health Ministry, who visited the Kompleks Sultan Abu Bakar (KSAB) checkpoint at the Second Link.

Malaysia has a total of 64 international gateways, comprising checkpoints on land, at international airports and in major ports.

He said visitors suspected of having a viral infection would be checked at health screening rooms, and later referred to a medical team handling infectious diseases at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru for further investigations.

Malaysia has confirmed four cases of the Wuhan virus, all of them Chinese citizens from Wuhan.

Johor Baru has six entry points, including the Causeway checkpoint at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar and KSAB, he said, which serve as land entry points for travellers from Singapore, Bernama news agency reported on Tuesday.

Dr Noor Hisham said between 3,000 and 3,500 mainland Chinese tourists enter Malaysia daily through the Second Link checkpoint.

Many of them are believed to be heading to Genting Highlands on tour buses.

Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur that ships arriving from China will be quarantined.

"At the ports, all ships from China will be given quarantine status until MOH members carry out inspections on ships," he said, according to Malay Mail online news. "The loading and unloading activities of the crew and passengers will be allowed if the inspection finds that all passengers and crew are healthy and that the (ship) sanitation certificates are still valid."

Malaysia on Monday banned the entry of Chinese nationals from Hubei province, where the novel coronavirus emerged from its capital city Wuhan.

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The Malaysian government has been under pressure to ban the entry of all Chinese nationals amid fears of the spreading virus, with more than 360,000 people signing an online petition over the weekend supporting the call.

Dr Noor Hisham visited KSAB on Monday evening "to see for myself the preparedness measures undertaken by all agencies involved, to detect infected travellers", he posted in a statement on Facebook on Tuesday.

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