Foreign Ministry sets up Covid-19 task force, confirms 11 cases of Malaysians abroad

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein says 11 Malaysian nationals have been infected by the novel coronavirus on foreign soil to date. — Bernama pic
Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein says 11 Malaysian nationals have been infected by the novel coronavirus on foreign soil to date. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — A special task force will be formed to monitor Covid-19 infection cases involving Malaysians abroad, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced today as concern mounts over the worsening pandemic.

Eleven Malaysian nationals have been infected by the novel coronavirus on foreign soil to date, Hishammuddin said in a statement.

Nine cases were reported in Singapore, with seven of them still under treatment, while two had been cured and discharged. The remaining two cases were in Japan. Both the patients have since returned.

“I and the top leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Wisma Putra) together with Malaysia’s Foreign Delegations are constantly monitoring the Covid-19 outbreak,” the minister said.

“I want to stress that we view the people’s wellbeing and health seriously, especially in countries most severely hit by the Covid-19 virus.”

Hishammuddin said his deputy, Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar, will lead the team that will be tasked to provide detailed updates on the situation. The report will be made public “from time to time”,  the minister added.

Wisma Putra estimated there could be up to 50,000 Malaysians scattered in ten of the countries most severely affected by the outbreak.

The United States has the highest number of Malaysian nationals based abroad by country, at 23,179, followed by China at 14,929, Japan at 6,019, South Korea at 4,297, France at 2,401, and Germany at 2,218, according to data from Wisma Putra.

These exclude civil servants based and their family members, who make up close to a thousand more.

Hishammuddin suggested that there could be more Malaysians that are unaccounted for, and has urged them to report immediately to the respective embassies.

“Given the huge number of Malaysians abroad, I urge those yet to register with our embassies to do so immediately,” he said.

“This is important to ease the embassies to provide the necessary consular assistance to those in help.”

At the same time, Wisma Putra has appealed for the Chinese authorities to allow the return of five Malaysians trapped in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in the Hubei province where the novel coronavirus is believed to have originated from.

Hishammuddin revealed his ministry has reached out to the Hubei Foreign Affairs Office to seek approval for their repatriation from the Changsha Airport, which has been in lockdown since Beijing declared the outbreak a national emergency in January.

“As of now Wisma Putra is still waiting for the Chinese government’s response and the Hubei FAO are trying the best they can,” he said.

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