PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is regarded as a high-risk country for an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, thanks to the high number of visitors, particularly from China.
Latest data show that more than 400 people have already been infected in China. The disease has also claimed the lives of nine people in Wuhan, where the outbreak began.
Cases have also been reported in Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and the United States.
Data shows that in the first half of last year, 1.55 million Chinese tourists arrived in Malaysia, making them the third largesttourism market after visitors from Singapore and Indonesia.
There were 2.94 million visitors from China in 2018.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye told The Sun that any suggestion that Malaysia should not be concerned about the virus potentially making its way here would be erroneous.
“We receive close to 30 million international travellers every year, with about three million of them coming from China. So the risk is real. It’s wrong to think that we have nothing to worry about. We will be on high alert,” he added.
However, Lee said Malaysia is well-equipped and prepared to deal with any infection.
“Tourists are screened at all entry points. Our priority is to prevent those suspected of carrying the disease from spreading it to others.”
Lee also urged Malaysians travelling back from China to seek treatment if they show symptoms of an infection, such as fever.
The World Health Organisation has called for a special emergency meeting to decide whether to declare a global public health emergency.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents expects to see a drop in the number of bookings for travel to China.
However, its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said it would not be necessary for those who have already pre-planned their trips to cancel their travel arrangements.
The Malaysian Medical Association has also advised the public to take necessary precautions to avoid infection, Rajvinder Singh reports.
Its president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said people should ensure good personal hygiene and wash their hands with soap frequently.
He said people could visit the Health Ministry’s website at www.infosihat.gov.my if they need more information or updates on the outbreak.