PUTRAJAYA, Feb 16 — The federal government is closing all Malaysian ports to cruise ships from or which previously visited China to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) locally, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said.
The deputy prime minister made the announcement during a press conference at the Health Ministry here.
An American who had been on a cruise ship docked in Cambodia tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving here by plane on Friday.
Today, Dr Wan Azizah said the remaining cruise passengers still in Cambodia were also barred from entering Malaysia as they had been in close contact with the American.
She said the decision was made after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met with Health Minister Datuk Dzulkefly Ahmad; Health director-general Datuk Dr Nor Hisham Abdullah; the secretaries-general of the home, foreign affairs and transport ministries; the Immigration Department, the National Security Council, and the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).
Dr Wan Azizah said the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur had initially chartered four Malaysian Airlines planes to ferry some of the cruise passengers to their final destination through KLIA.
The embassy contacted Malay Mail later to clarify that the flights had been chartered directly by Holland America, the operator of the cruise ship.
A spokesman also said the embassy has taken note of the infected US citizen here, and thanked the Malaysian government for the support and aid extended to her so far.
The four planes had been scheduled to fly from Sihanoukville International Airport and KLIA between February 14 and 16, but MAS cancelled the remaining flights following the test results.
“To date only one specially chartered flight (MH8763) carrying 145 passengers landed in KLIA on February 14 at 7pm.
“All arriving 145 passengers were made go undergo medical tests and two of them (an American couple) were symptomatic after going through the thermal scanner and were brought to Hospital Sungai Buloh for further medical examination,” she said.
Covid-19 detection tests conducted twice on the American couple returned similar results, with the woman testing positive while her 85-year-old spouse was negative.
Despite the negative results, Dr Wan Azizah said the man is now receiving treatment for a bacterial infection he suffered.
The DPM also commended the officers manning the thermal scanners at the airport, and thanked them for flagging the American couple for further evaluation.
Of the 145 passengers, 143 were found to be asymptomatic; 137 have since continued on to their final destination.
The remaining six passengers awaiting their connecting flights will now undergo further Covid-19 testing. They may continue their travel if their test results are negative.
The MS Westerdam cruise liner operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc had berthed in Hong Kong on January 31 before beginning a 14-day East Asia cruise from February 1.
The cruise ship then arrived in Sihanoukville, Cambodia on February 13, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew.
It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand.
Earlier today, Holland America said 236 passengers and 747 crew remained aboard the vessel, which is docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.
Dr Wan Azizah also said contact tracing was conducted immediately following the positively-tested American woman case.
“Such activities include communication between Malaysia International Health Regulations (IHR) Focal Point with National IHR Focal Point of other countries involved.
“This also included Cambodia’s IHR Focal Point where the cruise ship had previously docked,” she said.
She said the government will continue to strengthen its preparedness measures and response to face any widespread infection of Covid-19 here.
“The Health Ministry would continue to monitor the developments of this infection through information obtained from various authorities.
“The public is also urged to be informed of any latest development on the ongoing infection,” she said.