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Malaysia to screen all arriving travellers for fever

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia is beefing up surveillance at its international entry points by screening all travellers for fever and testing wastewater samples from aircraft coming from China amid the soaring number of Covid-19 cases there.

The Health Ministry said the wastewater samples will be sent to the National Public Health Laboratory for polymerase chain reaction testing before being despatched for genome sequencing if detected positive for Covid-19.

“All travellers arriving from abroad, including China, at the international entry points will undergo fever screening. Those who have been detected with fever, symptoms, or through self-declaration, will be referred to a quarantine centre or health authorities for re-examination. In the event of suspected Covid-19, a test will be carried out,” Health Minister Zaliha Mustaffa said on Friday.

“To improve detection of any new variants, all cases of influenza-like illnesses and severe acute respiratory infections in healthcare facilities with a travel history to China in the last 14 days, or with any contact with individuals with a travel history to China in the last 14 days, will be tested with RTK-Ag Covid-19 test and then genome sequencing if they are found positive with Covid-19,” she added.

The additional precautionary measures were announced to deal with a potential upsurge of China travellers after the country recently reopened its border for international travel after almost three years of self-isolation, starting Jan 8, 2023.

Its border has been effectively closed since February 2020 as the country maintained a zero-Covid policy.

Based on official figures provided by the World Health Organisation, the ministry said there were 148,659 new Covid-19 infections and 442 new deaths in China from Dec 11 to Dec 17.

Following China’s decision to open its border, Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Friday said Malaysia would see a spike in flight demand.

According to a report, Malaysia is one of the top 10 countries Chinese nationals want to visit.

While industry players are expecting a million travellers from China next year, the soaring number of Covid-19 cases there and the increased risk of an emergence of a new variant have kept them wary.

The Malaysia Tourism Agency Association (Mata) on Thursday urged the government to temporarily suspend the entry of tourists from China until the daily cases of Covid-19 there drop.

“We are all aware that hospitals across China are facing explosions of Covid-19 cases following Beijing’s decision to withdraw their strict regulations,” Mata president Mohd Khalid Harun said, tempering optimism of a lift to the local tourism industry from China’s rule relaxation.

“The trauma faced by players in the tourism industry due to the Covid-19 outbreak has yet to be resolved; in fact, many travel agencies and hotels have been closed due to the virus, incurring billions of ringgit in losses in the past two years,” he added.

He advised industry players to shift their focus to tourists from the Middle East and Europe, without relying on visitors from China for now.

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