Sorry, We’re Closed: Sabah politician calls for Wuhan flights to be halted over mystery virus fears

<i>Photo: ABS-CBN News</i>
Photo: ABS-CBN News

Amid stepped-up countermeasures aimed at preventing a global pandemic involving a mysterious and fatal new virus emanating from Wuhan, China, a politician in the Malaysian province of Sabah is calling for travelers from the disease-hit city to be barred from flying to the province altogether.

While many transit hubs, including Kuala Lumpur International Airport, have introduced measures like thermal body scanners aimed at detecting and isolating suspected cases of the little-understood coronavirus, clearly agitated Sabah assemblyman Joniston Bangkuai today dismissed that half-a**ed hogwash, calling for daily direct flights from Wuhan to the Sabah capital of Kota Kinabalu to be suspended until the outbreak is contained.

“Why are we putting ourselves at risk by allowing these Wuhan flights to continue to come into Kota Kinabalu, a gateway to the rest of the state?” Joniston asked his fellow politicians at a meeting of the state assembly.

Pointing out that hundreds had been diagnosed and several killed — as of today, China confirmed 440 cases had been detected, with nine dead — he questioned how effectively the Sabah Health and People’s Wellbeing Ministry was operating.

“Till today, we are not sure what this ministry does,” an exasperated Joniston said. “Does this ministry have a function or was it set up simply for window dressing?”

Meanwhile, in the less bombastic environs of Kuala Lumpur International, thermal scanners were introduced on Jan. 15 to detect passengers with abnormally high body temperatures and single them out for further screening. Between Jan. 15 and 20, over 250,000 passengers were screened, along with 8,808 crew members, all arriving from nearly 2,500 flights into the city’s main international airport.

Of those, 61 passengers were found to have a higher-than-normal body temperatures; however, none were found to have the mystery disease, Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye confirmed. If anyone were to test positive, an ambulance is on standby to take them to Sungai Buloh Hospital for treatment.

Those traveling to and from China have been advised to keep a check on any suspicious health symptoms for two weeks, and seek medical attention should any flu-like symptoms develop.

While Malaysia has yet to experience any cases of the illness, suspected cases have been reported in Japan, Thailand, Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and most recently, the United States.

Meanwhile, federal health officials told the media they would be keeping a close eye on the conclusions of an emergency meeting of World Health Organization officials later today regarding the burgeoning crisis.

“Once we know the outcome of the meeting, we will see if there is a need to review our standard operating procedure,” Deputy Minister Lee said.

(Oh, and if you were wondering about a vaccine – there isn’t one. Did we mention it’s a mystery disease?)


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