KOTA KINABALU, Jan 30 — Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew today said that, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, the state has decided to temporarily suspend all scheduled and chartered flights from China to Sabah with immediate effect.
Liew said the decision was made during the state Cabinet meeting yesterday and stressed that this was only a temporary measure with the interest of the people in mind.
“Although this suspension will have repercussions on the state’s tourism industry, the government is seriously looking at the health and welfare of Sabahans, and we want to avoid the risk of exposing our people to any possible carriers of the coronavirus infection.
“This travel ban is a very difficult decision and may not be well-received by our tourism players. However, the state government has to make sure we do not jeopardise the well-being of the people, given the uncertainty of how the coronavirus epidemic is developing,” she said in a statement today.
Sabah’s tourism industry relies heavily on China with over 42 per cent of its international tourists hailing from the republic.
There are 50,000 visitors per month and the temporary restriction may result in RM100 million worth of potential losses per month.
Liew said the State Secretary’s Office will inform all airlines operating the China-Kota Kinabalu route of the government’s decision.
“This means that all flights from China will be halted, and there will be no entry for all travellers from the various Chinese cities to Kota Kinabalu during the suspension period,” she said, adding that the Chinese government has already banned citizens from Wuhan, Xi’an, Beijing, Tianjin and Guangzhou from travelling abroad.
Liew said the state is carefully monitoring visitors for any presence of the virus in the state.
Earlier, Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi said that Sabah had tested some 25 China nationals for suspected coronavirus and all tests had returned negative.
All 25 were tourists who were referred to the health authorities by hoteliers, airlines and tour companies.
“Nine were admitted for further monitoring while 16 were given outpatient treatment. As of January 28, all of them categorised as Person Under Investigation (PUI) were tested negative for the coronavirus infection,” she said.
She said the government has been working closely with the hospitality and tourism industry in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.