FOR NOW, MASS PANIC – BUT LATER MALAYSIA, LIKE THE REST OF WORLD, WILL BEG FOR RETURN OF CHINESE TOURISTS: BEIJING FREEZES OUTGOING TOURS TO CONTAIN CORONAVIRUS – MALAYSIA WILL BE BADLY HIT BY TRAVEL CURBS, SAYS MATTA

Passengers stop for thermal screening at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

KUALA LUMPUR — China’s suspension of outgoing tour groups due to the novel coronavirus outbreak will hit Malaysia hard, Malaysian Association of Tour and travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said.

“Matta hopes that the situation is contained and that it will only last for a short period.

“Otherwise, the repercussion will be severe as it will affect the tourism industry not only in Malaysia, but also globally,” he said.

It was reported that travel suspension was implemented following reports that the novel coronavirus has spread across China and abroad.

Bloomberg reported that China ordered travel agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international tours to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan last month.

The order was given by China’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, and took effect last Friday.

When asked if tourism and travel companies here have begun feeling the impact of the virus outbreak, Tan replied: “Obviously.”

While he declined to make any estimates, Tan said it is expected that the cancellation of the inbound and outbound tours by China could cause losses in the millions in tourism receipts.

He also called on operators of hotels, tours and airlines, as well as other service providers to exercise flexible cancellation policies.

It was reported that from January to September last year, China was the third biggest source of foreign tourists (2.41 million arrivals), after Indonesia (2.7 million) and Singapore (7.8 million).

Citing Wuhan lockdown and WHO, DPM says no need to bar China tourists

The current situation concerning the novel coronavirus is under control and Putrajaya will continue to allow the entry of China tourists into Malaysia, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

“We take into consideration what the World Health Organisation said. (We) haven’t reached that level (to bar entry of tourists) yet.

“China has also blocked the travel of tourists from Wuhan, and Airasia has stopped flights from Wuhan following the lockdown (imposed by Beijing),” she said at a press conference after chairing a novel coronavirus cluster coordination meeting in Putrajaya today.

Wan Azizah added that all entry and exit points into the country will be closely monitored where all flight passengers including Malaysians coming from China will have to undergo screening tests.

China has put 13 cities including Wuhan – the origin point for the new coronavirus – under lockdown to keep the disease contained.

About 56 million people are reported to be under the lockdown orders.

However, there are concerns that tourists from China will spread the disease further in Malaysia.

An online petition to bar Chinese tourists from entering Malaysia has picked up some 300,000 signatures.

Thus far, the four confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Malaysia are of China nationals.

Read more: New coronavirus outbreak: Here’s what we know so far

Meanwhile, Wan Azizah advised the people against spreading fake news and create unrest situation in regard to the coronavirus cluster.

“Malaysia has done well in tackling Sars, Nipah, and Ebola. It shows that we have the capacity to take care of ourselves.

“Please don’t spread fake news, instil fear and give a certain perception to create unrest situation,” she said.

Earlier, Wan Azizah chaired the meeting at about 4pm which took two hours.

Also present were Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah, Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud, and the National Disaster Management Agency director-general Mohtar Mohd Abdul Rahman. – MKINI

MALAY MAIL / THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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